Restaurant owners were momentarily buoyed Thursday by a judge’s order that appeared to release them from Sacramento’s restrictions that had limited their activities to selling food on the curb—and just as quickly were dashed to despair by an Appeals Court that temporarily overturned the judge’s order.
Such are the challenges of trying to conduct a business in the days of the pandemic.
An advisory issued by California Restaurant Association President and CEO Jot Condie—and distributed to fellow restaurateurs along Grand Avenue by Louisa Magoon of the Escondido Downtown Business Association—addressed the issue of San Diego County: “This case, which was heard by Judge Joel Wohlfeil, was brought by two adult-entertainment businesses in San Diego. On Wednesday, Judge Wohlfeil issued a ruling that stopped the state and county from enforcing the state’s stay-at-home order in San Diego County. Although the case was not brought by restaurants or the CRA, the judge later clarified his ruling to include restaurants. In his ruling, the judge expressly stated that neither the state nor the county have provided evidence tying the spread of coronavirus to businesses with restaurant service.”
According to Condie: “This ruling essentially allowed restaurants in San Diego County to resume on-site dining (with safety protocols in place) for a brief moment last week. However, the state immediately filed an appeal which resulted in restaurants needing to close again.”
Condie advised restaurant owners to be patient. “If you’re thinking that this could wind up having statewide reach, you’re right, but I want to be clear: When an issue is this important, real-time developments in courtrooms around the state can be a frustrating experience – even when things go our way. Still, I’m encouraged — on the legal front, we believe the dam is breaking, so to speak. Courts are starting to rule in favor of barring restrictions that are not backed by evidence.”
Meanwhile Mrs. Magoon of the Grand Tea Room, told fellow restaurant owners that the new relief bill from Congress includes funds, such as loans and provisions especially for restaurants. The $900 billion bill would include $284 billion in PPP loans, which would allow businesses that already received such loans earlier this year to go to that well again.
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “For workers at the hardest-hit small businesses, there will be a targeted second draw of the Paycheck Protection Program.”
Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara weighed in on the issue this week: “I’m one of those people who says, if you want me to follow the science show me the empirical data proving your point. I believe the judge is saying the same thing. While I have no issue with the current guidance like social distancing and wearing a mask, the guidance isn’t much more than what our mothers told us about washing our hands and covering our mouths when we sneeze. We are in a situation where these decisions affect the livelihood of many of our small businesses. If we ask them to sacrifice, in fairness then we owe them guidance that has certainty associated with its effectiveness.”
James Rowten, CEO of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, told The Times-Advocate: “The Chamber like most all others is closely following this ruling as to its full impact on businesses in our community. The Chamber supports a consistent and effective campaign to thwart the virus which has caused significant damage to our local economy.