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

SHERMAN OAKS (CBSLA) -- The Valley Inn in Sherman Oaks was hoping that outdoor dining could help them make it during the holiday season.

Now, the owners fear they'll have to throw out thousands of dollars worth of food. After reaching a 4,000 five-day daily average of cases on Sunday, the county released a health order requiring in-person dining to shut down at restaurants, wineries and breweries as of 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Sophia Brodetsky and her family have invested tens of thousands of dollars to follow health guidelines to cling on to their restaurant.

"We've spent over a thousand dollars on heaters," Brodetsky said.

But L.A. County's decision to stop in-person dining, including outdoors, goes into effect hours before Thanksgiving.

"To prepare everything for Thanksgiving we have reservations," she said. "We're completely for outside dining. We've taken deposits for this situation."

MORE: Safer-At-Home Order Likely In LA County After Officials Report Record-High Daily COVID-19 Case Count

Sestina pasta bar in Culver City just opened its doors less than a week ago.

"We were really excited, it's been a long time coming," said owner Justin Hilbert.

But on Monday, they're already faced with the tough task of laying off employees due to the health order.

"It's really unfortunate to tell somebody, 'Look, it's not your fault. It's just we can't afford to keep you on and keep the restaurant open,'" he said.

Gregg Smith owns three restaurants in Pasadena that employ more than 200 workers who are worried about more layoffs.

"They're devastated and they're in tears and they don't know what they're going to do," he said.

Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the pause is aimed at slowing down the spread of COVID-19, which has reached alarming levels.

Although the Board of Supervisors signed off on these thresholds before they were released, Supervisor Kathryn Barger said on Monday that she plans to formally oppose the elimination of in-person dining.

"These proposed measures by the Department of Public Health will further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year,'' Barger said in a statement.

Barger said that only 10-15% of positive COVID-19 cases are related to dining with someone who tested positive. Closing outdoor dining could also create the unintended consequence of prompting more private gatherings, she said.

"Businesses have made incredible sacrifices to align with safety protocols to remain open in order to pay their bills and feed their families,'' Barger said. "Increased case counts are not coming from businesses reopening, but from large gatherings where people aren't wearing masks. We aren't helpless in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and can protect ourselves and our neighbors by maintaining physical distancing and wearing face coverings.''

Board member Janice Hahn also expressed concern about the ban on in-person dining.

"While I know our case counts are growing rapidly, I would have rather discussed this measure openly during our Board of Supervisors meeting so that the public could understand the rationale behind it,'' Hahn tweeted. "Some of these restaurants are barely hanging on. I hope this isn't the last nail in their coffins. I wish we could have figured out a way to put in more restrictions rather than completely shutting down dining.''

On Monday, 6,124 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed — by far the highest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic.

Public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that 1,500 of those cases were the result of a testing backlog from Sunday. But, even without those cases, the cases from Monday are still high enough to trigger yet another, stricter health order.

The Valley Inn has been here since 1947, but Sophia Brodetsky isn't sure how much longer she can keep its legacy going.

"I'm going to start calling people tonight to find out where they stand," she said. "And we will see?"

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