A few dozen restaurant owners and their supporters converged outside the Santa Monica home of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl on Saturday to express their frustrations with the latest restaurant outdoor dining shutdowns.
Carrying signs and chanting “let us work!” the group of demonstrators surrounded Kuehl’s home demanding to be allowed back to work, as stimulus negotiations continue to stall amid the worsening pandemic.
Kuehl made headlines earlier this week after she was seen eating outdoors at Il Forno Trattoria in Santa Monica on Nov. 24, just hours after voting to ban outdoor dining throughout the county for three weeks amid rising coronavirus cases in the region.
“This is a serious health emergency and we must take it seriously,” she said at the Board of Supervisors meeting as the measure passed in a 3-2 vote. “The servers are not protected from us, and they’re not protected from their other tables that they’re serving at that particular time, plus all the hours in which they’re working.”
While the order wasn’t set to take effect until the following day, Nov. 25, Kuehl has faced significant backlash among residents and restaurant business for her decision to eat out hours after the vote. Under the ban, all eateries in L.A. County are only allowed to offer take-out, drive-thru and delivery services.
“This hypocrite makes the final decision on us and then goes out hours after voting ‘No’ and then going on that complete tirade rant of ‘Oh, this is so unhealthy,’” Derrick Olson, co-owner of 8-one-8 brewery in Canoga Park, told KTLA 5 News at the demonstration. “And then she goes out and does it herself.”
Olson said he spent a quarter of a million dollars over the past several months to ensure his business was compliant with all the coronavirus protocols. He said the latest government restrictions could be the final, deadly blow to his business.
“The tasting room is what made it happen for us and our employees,” Olson said. “And when you take that away we can’t survive.”
Olson and so many others believe that restaurants and eateries have been unfairly targeted as non-essential businesses and Covid-clusters.
“If the science was there and we had the numbers to back that, you know, it might be a different story,” Olson added.
Kuehl’s office, however, has defended her decision to dine out on Tuesday.
Barbara Osborn, communications director for Kuehl’s office, said in a statement: “She loves Il Forno, has been saddened to see it, like so many restaurants, suffer from a decline in revenue. She ate there, taking appropriate precautions, and sadly will not dine there again until our Public Health Orders permit.”
Meanwhile, in a video posted online, Angela Marsden, who owns Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill in Sherman Oaks, expressed that she was “losing everything.”
“I’m losing everything. Everything I own is being taken away from me. And they set up a movie company right next to my outdoor patio … Tell me that this is dangerous,” Marsden said in the video, as she points to her restaurant’s outdoor dining setup before showing the adjacent film company set up. “But right next to me is a slap in my face.”
Marsden, however, said she’s not upset with the film company, as she understands “they need to work, too.”
“If you tell me I have to stay home, I lose my entire life savings, my business. My staff can’t eat, they can’t pay their rent,” Marsden told KTLA Saturday. “I have been working in Covid with the public from day one.”
Pamela Gray, owner of The Baked Potato jazz club in Studio City, said her business has been running for 50 years.
“We are people who are losing everything,” Gray said. “This business — 50 years of giving live music, and great food and fun and fellowship.”
The county-issued ban on outdoor dining suffered a legal setback Wednesday when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered public health officials to show scientific evidence justifying the ban imposed last week amid soaring coronavirus cases.
The county must return to court Tuesday to present evidence supporting the ban.
“We were successful in Los Angeles Superior Court today, where the judge agreed that LA County must show cause for its order to ban outdoor dining,” the California Restaurant Association tweeted on Wednesday.
The county judge’s ruling, however, was of little help to bars and restaurants in the city of Los Angeles after Garcetti implemented a stay-at-home order the same day as the ruling.
Meanwhile, Newsom announced a new stay-at-home Thursday, divides the state into five regions and links business closures and travel restrictions to hospital ICU capacity. When a region has fewer than 15% of its ICU beds available, new restrictions are imposed.
Once the threshold, a litany of changes would take effect, including closing hair salons, barber shops and movie theaters. Restaurants may only serve takeout and delivery, and playgrounds will be off-limits.
The Southern California region met the threshold Friday when ICU capacity was at 13.1% and then again on Saturday at 12.5%, according to data released by the state Department of Public Health.
With Newsom’s statewide order going into effect Saturday afternoon and the region meeting the threshold through Saturday, the new restrictions will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the California Department of Public Health told KTLA.