When California Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted his stay-at-home order that had been in effect in LA County since early December, health officials included an unusual rule. They have restricted restaurants from displaying television in their outdoor dining areas, in fear that the upcoming Super Bowl could become a “super-spreader event.”
“Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off. This provision is effective until further notice,” the order from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health reads.
The restaurant industry has been hit the hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a loss of 2.5 million jobs and 110,000 establishments being closed either temporarily or for good nationwide. In November, California banned all outdoor dining which had limited eateries to takeout and delivery services.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer voiced concerns about large gatherings regarding the Super Bowl event and insisted that it should be a “virtual get-together” like how many people had celebrated the Holidays.
Others argued that government and health officials did not have the science to back up why restaurants must cease on-site dining, let alone force restaurant owners to turn their television screens off. A handful of lawsuits from the California Restaurant Association reached LA Courts, in which Superior Court Judge James Chalfant sided with claimants in insisting public health officials had to present data in support of the outdoor dining ban. They found the ban unconstitutional, arbitrary, irrational, and unfair. Just six days later, the state ended the stay-at-home order
Businesses have said that they will sue again if California adds another outdoor dining ban. The state’s Health and Human Services secretary said in a statement “California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for.” Such convenient timing that the case numbers started to go down right when the courts deemed Newsom’s ban unconstitutional.
While California officials warn they hope they don’t need to “resort to such strict measures,” restaurant owners have hinted at more lawsuits if that happens. “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 Carl Dene, owner of Sam’s General Store in Calistoga.
Now we’ve got Gov. Newsom telling us it’s finally safe to eat things outdoors but you can’t watch TV at the same time. He claims it is essential to avoid mixing with people outside of your own household while having maskless dinners and mixing with lots of people outside of his household. When will Californians recall Gavin Newsom?