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When Will Outdoor Dining Resume in LA County?

Appeals court upholds LA County’s outdoor dining ban

By Sam Catanzaro

A recent court ruling upholding Los Angeles County’s outdoor dining ban gives some indication when local restaurants may be able to resume al fresco service.

On December 20, 2020, the 2nd District Court of Appeal issued a ruling directing Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant to show at an upcoming hearing why his December 15 rejection of the County’s outdoor ban should remain in place. Chalfant will present his case to the three-justice panel during a February 10 hearing, meaning the appellate court’s stay will prevent the resumption of outdoor dining until at least that date.

“The preliminary injunction order is stayed until further order of this court,” the appellate panel ruled.

LA County’s three-week outdoor dining ban went into effect on November 25 amid rising COVID-19 cases. The California Restaurant Association and a downtown LA restaurant owner, however, filed lawsuits challenging the action in Los Angeles Superior Court. On December 15, Judge Chalfant sided with the plaintiffs, though noted California’s overriding outdoor dining ban–recently renewed by Gov. Gavin Newsom–prevented outdoor dining in LA County until the state order expires. Chalfant instead prohibited the county from implementing its dining ban beyond the original three-week time period.

“By failing to weigh the benefits of an outdoor dining restriction against its costs, the county acted arbitrarily and its decision lacks a rational relationship to a legitimate end,” Chalfant wrote. “The balance of harms works in petitioners’ favor until such time as the county concludes after proper risk-benefit analysis that restaurants must be closed to protect the healthcare system.”

The County appealed Chalfant’s decision on December 17, the day after its outdoor dining ban expired. With the overriding state law, however, there was no immediate practical consequence. Now at the February 10 hearing, the appellate court will decide on the future of LA County’s outdoor dining ban.

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