Outdoor Dining Ban Stirs Protests from California Counties

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California Counties Protest Against the State’s Latest Outdoor Dining Ban

For Los Angeles County, its 10 million inhabitants could only enjoy outdoor dining as the closest pre-pandemic activity that they could get until the last week of November. The county’s health department has decided to suspend outdoor dining due to the recent groundbreaking records of hospitalized COVID-positive patients. The ban got enacted once again within the district – the second time since its first implementation last May.

The state’s newest outdoor dining ban order has stirred heavy criticisms from multiple California counties. The resolution would severely affect nearly 30,000 restaurants scattered across the country, leaving millions of residents jobless and financially unstable in the middle of a raging pandemic. To stop the worst-case scenarios from happening, several tapped out California cities, and over 88 administrations joined forces in creating their health departments and protesting against the outdoor dining prohibition.

Raphael J. Sonenshein, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs’ executive director at California State University, described the union as a mini rebellion against the state’s latest pandemic restrictions. The complaint speaks about the growing anger of the country’s residents and government leaders over the nationwide ordinance. Several elected officials even considered the outdoor dining ban as a local concern and not a statewide issue.

Since local governments in the country have no official procedures for creating their health departments, officials have decided to take matters into their hands. During the past several days, city committees across California have approved decrees to address the issue. The passed resolutions would allow cities to either build their respective health agencies or unite together with another municipality that already has one. 

Municipalities That Voted for the Creation of Their Respective Public Health Departments

Among the nation’s counties, West Covina’s City Council was one of the first municipalities to vote for the motion. Last week, Beverly Hills and Lancaster also followed suit with the plan. West Hollywood, Commerce, Hawaiian Gardens, Inglewood, and other cities are currently contemplating to conduct similar actions.

West Covina’s Mayor Tony Wu protested against the outdoor dining ban imposed by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The said ban got established on the night before Thanksgiving and would last for three weeks, sending the country’s already struggling economy deeper into recession. 

Mayor Wu stated that as an immigrant mayor, he and the rest of West Covina have complied with the state’s health protocols. This time around, however, Wu declared that the countrywide outdoor dining ban is unnecessary and would like to propose its re-enactment on local cities instead.

Meanwhile, Beverly Hills Mayor Lester Friedman also voiced the same concerns as Mr. Wu did about the order. Mayor Friedman revealed that the Angelenos severed its ties with the county. Beverly Hills has seen a financial downfall of this year’s budget of $27 million due to the pandemic. With the outdoor dining ban intact, the county would face another economic shutdown.

Hawaiian Gardens is not ecstatic about the new legislation either. According to city manager Ernie Hernandez, he revealed that residents could not afford to buy food or pay their bills. Mayor Hernandez expressed his disagreement with the ban, saying that another shutdown is not the solution in containing the coronavirus across the region.

The State’s Current Coronavirus Case Status and Newly Enacted Three-Week Order

Last November, daily case reports of coronavirus tripled in number. As of Tuesday, California has recorded a total of 25,000 infections. From that count, Los Angeles County has contributed 8,500 cases, and about 3,000 of them are confined in hospitals and intensive care units. 

Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a three-week order lockdown across the state, which took effect on Monday. The order displaced Los Angeles County’s restrictions and pronounced a countrywide outdoor dining ban.

Multiple of the county’s cities govern their respective law enforcement, fire, and other government systems. However, only districts Long Beach and Pasadena have decision-making powers and separate health departments. Long Beach did not offer outdoor dining due to its recent rise of coronavirus cases, while Pasadena allowed it until last week. 

California’s board of supervisors handle the decision-making process of the country’s health department. On the other hand, municipal mayors cannot rule over their counties’ transportation, public schools, and public health.

Last week, Los Angeles Judge James Chalfant instructed health officials to provide data supporting the outdoor dining prohibition. While he temporarily agreed with the board of supervisors, Judge Chalfant sided with the restaurants on Tuesday. Judge Chalfant listened to the public’s protest by reducing the ban’s time effectiveness to only three weeks. The revision could help avoid eateries committing forced business shutdowns.