San Diego judge says ruling upending COVID closures also applies to restaurants in county

A man wearing a face mask posts a notice in a business window
General manager Sean Daley prepares Nolita Hall restaurant to open for takeout service Thursday in San Diego. On Friday, he expects to reopen for indoor and outdoor dining after a judge’s order that closures are not enforceable.
(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A San Diego Superior Court judge made it clear Thursday afternoon: An injunction he issued late Wednesday that stopped state and local officials from enforcing the COVID-19 shutdown on two strip clubs also applies to all restaurants in the county.

The clarification by Judge Joel Wohlfeil came in a response from a morning request by San Diego County and state lawyers, who sought to clear up ambiguity in Wohlfeil’s ruling in a case filed by Pacers and Cheetahs adult entertainment clubs.

The ruling was a sharp rebuke to how COVID-19 restrictions have been applied by state and county leaders, and was cautiously welcomed by some restaurant owners

Dec. 16, 2020


Wohlfeil wrote that the order applies to the two clubs and added the phrase, “San Diego county businesses with restaurant services.” No restaurants were plaintiffs in the case.

During a brief hearing Wohlfeil said: “The court’s intention is all businesses which provide restaurant services in the county of San Diego are encompassed in the court’s order.”

The state is appealing the ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeal, according to San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Jason Saccuzzo, a lawyer for Pacers. The state is likely to ask for a stay, halting the impact of Wohlfeil’s ruling until the appeal can be heard.

The judge’s ruling means restrictions that limited restaurants to providing takeout service are, for the moment, no longer applicable. County officials said Wednesday night they would no longer enforce restrictions against restaurants and live entertainment venues.

On Thursday, the city of Carlsbad said it, too, would suspend enforcing orders as they relate to restaurants.

The judge said neither the state nor the county had provided sufficient evidence showing that restaurants and live entertainment venues operating with safety measures in place contributed to spread of the novel coronavirus or the impact on hospital intensive care units, and the restrictions could not be justified.


Moran writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.