Over 50 Bay Area restaurants and wineries served Gov. Gavin Newsom with a lawsuit Tuesday asking that he take back his order for regional bans on outdoor dining. The class action suit brought by the Wine Country Coalition for Safe Reopening seeks to enjoin Newsom’s December ban on outdoor dining and wine tasting. Public Health Director Tomás J. Aragón is also named in the complaint.

The complaint requests that the outdoor dining ban be rescinded for the entire Bay Area region, or just Napa and Sonoma Counties. Newsom’s order divided the state into regions and imposed strict regulations in regions where intensive care unit capacities in at least one county dropped below 15 percent. According to the state, ICU capacity dropped below 1 percent last week.

California’s Department of Public Health said that the outdoor dining ban is not in response to one activity or sector being more dangerous than others, but a necessary response to prevent households from mixing at a time.

However, the lawsuit argues for more scrutiny in the state’s process for calculating ICU capacity, claiming that it’s been adjusted to make it appear worse than it actually is.

This new lawsuit joins several other state and federal cases challenging outdoor dining bans against restaurants and wineries. Since Newsom’s order, restaurant revenues, hours and staff income have dropped more than 75 percent, according to the complaint. This is after these businesses have collectively spent millions of dollars to build or weatherproof their outdoor dining spaces to adapt to comply with restrictions. The lawsuit also alleges that scientific data does not support the on-site dining prohibition relegating restaurants to take-out and delivery only.

In addition to ongoing operation costs to keep restaurant doors open, the complaint cites state and local fees that are still being collected, even though these businesses are forced to close. On Friday, state lawmakers introduced AB 259 (known as the Protecting Our Restaurants Tax Credit) which would create a tax credit for up to half the cost of an annual alcohol license for qualified bars and restaurants that qualified in 2020 and 2021.

The case is Wine Country Coalition for Safe Reopening v. Newsom, case number 21CV000065in the Superior Court of California, County of Napa.

 

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