A court ruling that fried Los Angeles County for a ban on outdoor dining left the restaurant that sued the county with empty plates despite its victory.
Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said Tuesday the county “acted arbitrarily” and “failed to perform the required risk-benefit analysis” when it shut down outdoor dining effective Nov. 25, according to KTTV-TV.
Despite the fact that bureaucracy bollixed up the issue, restaurants still cannot have outdoor dining, the judge noted, because a regional order issued by the state has banned any type of in-person dining through Christmas. Thus, he ruled, even though the county was wrong, “outdoor restaurant dining in the county cannot reopen at this time.”
Chalfant said that in drafting an order to shut down outdoor dining, LA County “could be expected to consider the economic cost of closing 30,000 restaurants, the impact to restaurant owners and their employees, and the psychological and emotional cost to a public tired of the pandemic.”
BREAKING: Judge James Chalfant issues tentative decision in the CRA/Mark Geragos’ lawsuit vs L.A. County re: outdoor dining ban. Judge GRANTS a preliminary injunction, writing that the County “acted arbitrarily” and “failed to perform the required risk-benefit analysis.” @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/3W3sOZ8ey0
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) December 8, 2020
But, he indicated, it did not.
Amnon Siegel, a lawyer for the county, said such an analysis is not required under the law and is a “borderline impossible task.”
But the judge said that if the county wants to impose the order, some sort of risk-benefit analysis must be performed.
“The county should be prevented from continuing the restaurant closure order indefinitely,” Chalfant wrote in his ruling, which came in response to lawsuits from the California Restaurant Association and Engine Co. 28, a downtown LA restaurant.
Although Chalfant could not restore outdoor dining due to the state edict, he made clear his disdain for the county’s action.
“The issue here is, is shutting down outdoor dining going to help in any significant way, or is it just something to do?” Chalfant said at a court hearing, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Is it going to help, or is it just a drop in the ocean of a much bigger problem?” Chalfant said. “And I don’t know, it’s not my job to make that decision, it’s the public health officials’ job.”
Siegel said Chalfant was trying to make health policy.
“There is no admission by the county that they have failed to conduct the proper balancing analysis,” Siegel said. “They haven’t conducted the analysis that the court would like them to conduct, but the court’s not in the business of policymaking.”
But Chalfant suggested the ban on outdoor dining was not supported by the facts.
Officials “in nine months have not seriously looked at outdoor dining, and then … impose a restriction preventing outdoor dining,” he said. “That’s just shocking.”
Mark Geragos, owner of Engine Co. 28, said the restrictions were “political theater” and referred to the county’s insistence that the ban was necessary as “intellectual shelter-in-place.”
“It has driven people to the point where they will not … expect guidance from the county because they know the guidance given to them by the county is absolutely baseless,” he said.
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