LA County restaurant owners push back against dining ban amid fears business may not survive

With L.A. County's ban on in-person dining set to go into effect, restaurant owners are worried it may take a fatal bite out of their bottom line.

Sid Garcia Image
Thursday, November 26, 2020
LA County restaurant owners want new dining ban overturned
Los Angeles County's move to once again ban outdoor dining has been met with anger and desperation from restaurant owners.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Los Angeles County's move to once again ban outdoor dining was met with anger and desperation from restaurant owners.

David Cooley, the founder and CEO of the Abbey in West Hollywood, is one of those owners.

"Right now the closure is for three weeks, but we know it will extend through New Year's... and it will probably put me out of business, forever," Cooley said while fighting back tears.

RELATED: How much are restaurants contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in LA County?

With LA County's ban on outdoor dining set to take effect Wednesday, data from the county health department shows a small percentage of outbreaks have been tied to restaurants and bars. But, some have been cited for coronavirus-related violations.

Mickey Barnes, the general manager at The Lobster in Santa Monica, also expressed his concerns. The restaurant invested thousands of dollars to keep patrons physically distant while dining outside.

"It's tough to have to do this to our employees all over again, it's just a very stressful time" he said.

A group of Chambers of Commerce leaders and restaurant owners got together in West Hollywood Wednesday to demand that L.A. County show them the data that supports its decision to eliminate outdoor dining over the next three weeks. They want the county to overturn the outdoor dinning ban so they can keep their doors open.

With the ban set to take effect, many are worried it may take a fatal bite out of their bottom line, with some owners saying that at 10 p.m. on Wednesday they will have to tell a lot of their employees that they have been laid off.

Luis Navarro owns four restaurants in Long Beach.

"I think everyone has worked so hard to create these outside environments. To see it taken away and for us go back to take-out and delivery, it just kind of feels empty," Navarro said.

He says pre-COVID-19, he employed nearly 200 workers. As of Friday, he says they'll be down to 60 employees.

The Long Beach Restaurant Association also took aim at the county ban.

"There has been no data submitted in our knowledge to any regulatory body that suggests that people are at an increased risk of COVID spread by outdoor dining," said Alex Cherin of the Long Beach Restaurant Association.

The Long Beach Restaurant Association says it plans to send a formal letter to the city health officer, asking to reverse the decision and allow outdoor dining to continue.