On Friday, a lawsuit by the Wine Country Coalition for Safe Reopening over the state ban on outdoor dining and wine tasting was dropped due to the announcement by Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday that ended the statewide lockdown.
State lockdown orders given by Governor Newsom in November and December had restricted or limited many businesses across the state, including restaurants. The color-coded tier system was replaced by regions, forcing most of California’s restaurants to be either delivery or pick-up based. This resulted in restaurants being further hurt financially. With wine tasting and other similar activities also banned due to the lockdown, the Wine County Coalition for Safe Reopening finally sued the state earlier this month, noting that the ban was “arbitrary, irrational and unfair.”
For a week, it had looked like a major courtroom confrontation was inevitable. However, that’s when the lockdown end was announced, allowing restaurants to open within a matter of days in every county in the state.
“Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner,” said California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomas Aragon on Monday.
The decision, while welcomed, also sent restaurants and other businesses scrambling to reopen on time due to the added seating and getting ready to meet state and local health and safety regulations once again.
But with the re-openings, as well as COVID-19 new case and death rates slowing down dramatically since when the lockdown began, the lawsuit was summarily dismissed.
Outdoor dining lawsuit dismissed but not forgotten
“In cases like this, where someone filed a lawsuit over a law, only for that law to change in their favor during the course of the suit, it’s always dismissed or dropped or just generally ended,” San Bernardino County lawyer Chuck Hernandez told the Globe. “Why waste more money on a lawsuit when you already got what you wanted? That’s what happened for the restaurant group this week. Outdoor dining is allowed once again. Why continue?”
“I will say this though. Should the ban go back into place, they have an amazing start on another lawsuit against them.”
And for the Coalition, that’s the plan. Members of the Coalition noted that they are prepared to sue again should the state ban outdoor dining and wine tasting once more.
“We support all efforts to limit the spread of COVID, but there is simply no data that shows outdoor dining and wine tasting contribute to the spread, so we are happy to see the governor following the science,” said Calistoga store owner Carl Dene in a Fox News interview. “We’re ready to file another lawsuit if the state enacts another ban on outdoor dining and wine tasting.”
State health officials have said that they don’t “need to resort to such strict measures to keep our health care system protect and to save lives,” but they also went on to say that it wasn’t set in stone.
Final counties, such as LA County, were due to reopen for outdoor dining on Friday, albeit with added restrictions outside such as no TVs being on and at least 8 feet between tables outside.