Inspectors from Newsom’s new ‘strike teams’ order at least 12 Santa Clara County restaurants to close, drawing criticism

California
A man glances strides along a quiet sidewalk in downtown Palo Alto in Santa Clara County on March 12, 2020. (GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A man glances strides along a quiet sidewalk in downtown Palo Alto in Santa Clara County on March 12, 2020. (GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

About 200 state inspectors that are part of new “strike teams” set up by California Gov. Gavin Newsom are fanning out over the weekend to enforce rules — and encountered trouble in the Santa Clara County city of Morgan Hill.

At a news conference Saturday, Mayor Rich Constantine slammed the appropriateness of armed officers with the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control who visited at least a dozen restaurants Friday night and ordered them to close.

Constantine said he doesn’t know why the agents ordered the restaurants to close when they are allowed to operate outdoors. The strike team did not cite anyone, but they were “heavy-handed” and did not explain what the restaurants were doing wrong, he said.

“We can’t even get ahold of anybody in the governor’s office, and we’re the government,” Constantine said. “The county attorney, our city attorney all have been trying to get an answer so we can get our businesses a definitive answer.”

Ladera Grill owner Dan McCranie said it’s beyond frustrating that just as they’re starting to get customers back, “these guys come up and say we can’t show you a rule or regulation but you will stop this.”

In response, California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said Saturday that the restaurants did not have permission from the state to open.

The governor’s “strike teams” are made up of 10 state agencies and are meant to enforce guidelines designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The teams include representatives from the California Highway Patrol; the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, as well as people from Alcohol Beverage Control; Barbering & Cosmetology; Business Oversight; Consumer Affairs; Food and Agriculture; Labor Commissioner’s Office; and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

In announcing the teams earlier this week, Newsom insisted inspectors are meant to be educating businesses about the state’s guidelines. “I’m not coming out with a fist,” he said.

Those on the strike team have licensing and enforcement power over a broad array of businesses that are subject to stringent guidelines.

The state has broadened restrictions across much of the state, calling for the closure of bars, indoor dining, movie theaters, gambling and other places in a bid to stop crowding during the holiday weekend.

As of Saturday, the state had recorded 252,526 coronavirus cases and 6,334 deaths attributed to the respiratory illness, according to a tally by the Los Angeles Times.

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