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LA County Supervisors Uphold Controversial Outdoor Dining Ban Despite Some Opposition

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – By a 3-2 vote, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday upheld the impending and controversial ban on outdoor dining which will take effect Wednesday night.

Outdoor dining effected by new evening shutdown - during the Coronavirus pandemic
People enjoy a meal and something to drink at Greenleaf restaurant along Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice on November 23, 2020. In a devastating blow to Los Angeles struggling restaurant and hospitality industry, L.A. County public health officials on Sunday announced they will suspend outdoor dining at restaurants amid a surge of new coronavirus cases.The new rule takes effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday and restricts restaurants along with breweries, wineries and bars to takeout and delivery only for the first time since May. Venice on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020 Venice, CA. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Beginning at 10 p.m. Wednesday, all eateries in L.A. County will only be able to offer take-out, drive-thru and delivery services. The outdoor dining ban will last for a period of at least three weeks.

On Tuesday, Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn introduced a motion seeking to maintain the status quo of allowing outdoor dining, arguing the ban will be too onerous on restaurants that are already struggling during the pandemic. But Supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Mark Ridley- Thomas and Hilda Solis stood behind the ban.

"Outdoor dining is probably more dangerous in terms of contagion than any other kind of business,'' Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said.

Barger and Hahn argued the ban is too punitive to restaurants in response to a surge that has been largely blamed on private gatherings rather than outdoor dining.

"I have never experienced the kind of pushback I am hearing," Hahn said of the in-person dining ban. "The public doesn't think that that recommendation is right, and they don't think it's going to work, and they are really losing faith and trust in the decisions that we're making."

RELATED: Proposal Seeks To Prohibit Gatherings In LA County As Pandemic Surges

Kuehl argued diners at restaurants "sit for hours with no masks on'' and are in close proximity to servers and patrons walking by.

While the Board of Supervisors was discussing the issue Tuesday, the L.A. City Council adopted an emergency resolution urging the county to allow in-person dining to continue.

Earlier Tuesday, a judge denied a request from a major restaurant industry group which would have prevented L.A. County from imposing the ban. The California Restaurant Association went before an L.A. County Superior Court judge requesting a court order that would prevent L.A. County from suspending outdoor dining.

The request was in response to a modified public health order issued Sunday that prohibits restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars from providing in-person outdoor dining due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

In its request, the CRA demanded that the L.A. County Public Health Department provide specific medical and scientific evidence as to why outdoor dining should be halted before doing so.

While the judge denied CRA's request to delay the ban, but still left the door open for CRA to pursue more legal action on the issue.

RELATED: Local Restaurants Fear Shutting Down As LA County Restricts Outdoor Dining Again

An attorney for the CRA argued that the shutdown was coming at a terrible time for many restaurants which had been planning to serve customers special holiday meals outdoors. The group also claimed that only 3% of all COVID-19 cases had been linked to restaurants.

"There is some indication that in-home dining poses a greater risk than outdoor dining at a restaurant," CRA attorney Dennis Ellis told reporters after the hearing. "So naturally, we were a little surprised that restaurants would be singled out at this time."

The city of Long Beach, which has its own health department, also plans to bar in-person dining Wednesday night.

However, the city of Pasadena, which also has its own health department, has not yet issued a ban on in-person dining, with officials saying the situation will be reviewed on a daily basis before any action is taken.

"I'm really worried," bartender Sarah Parish told CBSLA. "I'm worried about paying my rent. I'm worried about paying my bills."

After Wednesday night, she will be laid off along with hundreds of others who work in the restaurant industry.

"I worry more about the business than myself, cause I can always get another job," she said. "These business owners have invested their entire life savings, everything that they have, into these businesses...the government is doing nothing to support that whatsoever."

The popular Laurel Tavern in Studio City posted on its Instagram page that beginning at 10 p.m. Wednesday, it would be completely closed "until further notice."

Meanwhile, L.A. County reported 3,692 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing its total to 374,479. There were also 51 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the county's total death toll to 7,501.

The county's five-day average of new COVID-19 cases surpassed the 4,500-mark Monday. L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer reported last week that a safer-at-home order would be issued if that happens. On Tuesday, she outlined more details about the safer-at-home order that may be issued in the coming days:

-- No public or private gatherings of people not in the same household

-- Outdoor permitted activities at 50% capacity

-- Indoor essential retail at 35% capacity

-- Indoor non-essential retail at 20% capacity

California public health officials have already put in place a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew order for all 41 purple-tier counties, which includes every county in Southern California. It began on Saturday and will last through at least Dec. 21.

Under the order, all gatherings, movement and non-essential work is now allowed between those hours. Residents are, however, allowed to do such things as go to the grocery or drug store, walk their pets or pick up takeout.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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