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LA Restaurants In Peril As In-Person Dining Ban Hits During Busiest Season Of The Year

WEST HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA) -- The night before Thanksgiving is typically a big one for restaurants.

In fact, the next three weeks are usually the most profitable of the year. This year, that won't be the case for restaurants in L.A. County.

Restaurants and bars are required to shut down for in-person dining for at least three weeks starting Wednesday at 10 p.m., per a new county health order.

"I'm very frustrated and sad right now," said Christy Vega, owner/operator of Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks. "I'm frustrated because I think it's the complete wrong decision. I think this is just going to force people to go indoors and gather...and it will cause the virus to spike even more, which will keep us shut down even longer."

Health chief Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases is prompting the shutdown, but business owners — like David Cooley, who owns The Abbey in West Hollywood — said that they may not survive this time.

"Right now the closure is for three weeks, but we know that will extend through New Years and it'll probably put me out of business," Cooley said.

The ban on outdoor dining with affect thousands of restaurants in L.A. County.

Business owners and city leaders from West Hollywood and Culver City gathered at The Abbey on Wednesday to fight the restrictions.

"There were claims that this was based of  data and science but that simply isn't true," said Colin Diaz of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce.

According to the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, the restrictions will put nearly 700,000 people out of work.

"Their income has been impacted," said Genevieve Morrill with the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. "They can't pay their rent or mortgage. Where is the help for them?"

It's a frightening thought for so many employees.

"I'm definitely scared," said Jaime Taylor, a server at Spago. "I'm by myself. I live alone. Spago was my main bread and butter... It means a lot of uncertainty, a lot of questioning, trying to decide what you are going to spend your money on."

And while many can apply for unemployment, some like Ignacio — an undocumented worker — cannot.

"I'm the head of the family. I have three kids and this right in a time before the holidays, you know, I'm losing my job and my family depends on me," he said.

Local attorneys are also fighting back and have plans to take on L.A. County and the Department of Public Health.

"We are here to take this fight the courts to tell judges: if you are going to enforce arbitrary rules, you need to enforce them to the government before you enforce them on people that are actually trying to comply," said attorney Alexandra Kazarian.

Even though restaurants cannot be open for in-person dining after 10 p.m., they will still be able to serve for takeout or delivery.

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