Appellate Court Stays Judge's Order on Outdoor Dining


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A state appeals court panel has temporarily stayed a judge's order finding that Los Angeles County health officials acted “arbitrarily'' and without a proper “risk-benefit'' analysis when they banned outdoor dining as a coronavirus-control measure.

The three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal issued its ruling Friday, directing Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant to show during a Feb. 10 hearing before the appellate court why his Dec. 15 order should not be vacated.

“The preliminary injunction order is stayed until further order of this court,'' the appellate panel wrote.

In his ruling, Chalfant found that the county “failed to perform the required risk-benefit analysis'' before enacting the ban, which took effect the night before Thanksgiving.

“By failing to weigh the benefits of an outdoor dining restriction against its costs, the county acted arbitrarily and its decision lacks a rational relationship to a legitimate end,'' Chalfant wrote in his ruling, which stemmed from lawsuits filed by the California Restaurant Association and the owner of the downtown Engine Co. No. 28 restaurant, attorney Mark Geragos.

“The balance of harms works in petitioners' favor until such time as the county concludes after proper risk-benefit analysis that restaurants must be closed to protect the healthcare system,'' Chalfant wrote.

While siding with the restaurant industry, Chalfant noted that due to the state's regional stay-at-home order that took effect Dec. 6 -- and which also included a ban on in-person dining -- “outdoor restaurant dining in the county cannot open at this time.''

Chalfant instead enjoined the county from imposing its dining ban beyond the original three-week time period, which ended Dec. 16. The state's order at a minimum will be in place until Dec. 28, but is likely to be extended into the new year given the continued surge in COVID-19 cases.

Chalfant said the county -- which is obliged to adhere to the state's order -- could only extend the restriction beyond the state's “after conducting an appropriate risk-benefit analysis.''

On Sunday, the owner of a Sherman Oaks restaurant filed a federal court lawsuit challenging the state ban on in-person dining. Geragos filed the lawsuit on behalf of Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill owner Angela Marsden. Marsden made headlines with a viral video she posted expressing outrage that her patio had been shut down for outdoor service, while a Hollywood production company filming across the street from her restaurant was permitted to set up an outdoor catering tent providing food to cast and crew members.

Photo: Getty Images

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