West Hollywood leaders and business owners are frustrated and angry about the restaurant shutdown ordered by Los Angeles County health officials. The move is the latest effort by county officials to curb the skyrocketing COVID-19 case rates.
Set to go into effect Wednesday at 10 p.m., the shutdown would close all in-service dining at restaurants/bars for three weeks, but take-out orders and deliveries would still be allowed. The restaurant closure is in addition to the state-mandated overnight curfew which runs 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath feels the city will be particularly hard hit because so much of the city’s economy is entertainment based.
“Our city is going to be impacted unlike any city in California,” said Horvath. “We have the hospitality industry here, the LGBTQ community here. So much of the economy is based on nightlife and the restaurants are such a big part of the nightlife. This is certainly not something the city of West Hollywood wants especially just before a holiday.”
She questions the data Los Angeles County Public Health Department officials are using to make the decision to shutter restaurants. Most studies show the coronavirus is being spread primarily by gatherings in private homes, not from outside dining in restaurants.
Genevieve Morrill, the president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, also questions the decision.
“We are absolutely distraught by once again county government taking actions to shut down business based on no data or science that outdoor dining is the cause of the spikes in cases,” said Morrill. “This is caused from private house parties.”
City Councilmember Lauren Meister agrees.
“The outdoor dining is not the problem. The problem is the private parties, the parties in people’s home. Those things can’t be monitored. At least outdoor dining can be monitored,” said Meister.
Morrill shares those sentiments about monitoring and safety protocols.
“The businesses have created safe environments where they can manage social distancing and mask wearing.The public has to abide by the protocols,” Morrill. “By taking away options for dining out, people will host more house and backyard parties in uncontrolled environments.”
Horvath and Morrill were part of a conference call with business owners on Monday. The restaurant and bar owners are upset, having invested considerable money creating outdoor spaces in an attempt to follow protocols.
Despite the frustration, Horvath reported there was no talk of defying the shutdown order, but the businesses do plan to make their dissatisfaction known.
“Our business community is organizing themselves to make sure their response is heard loud and clear,” Horvath said.
Meister told WEHOville rather than a shutdown, the health department could have taken a less severe approach. She suggested lowering occupancy rates for outdoor dining and/or more aggressively monitoring restaurants/bars and quickly citing violators.
“The bad players have to be cited and closed down,” said Meister. “Don’t punish the good players.”
Councilmember John D’Amico also believes county health officials should have taken a different approach.
“It doesn’t seem like closing restaurants will stop people from getting together,” said D’Amico. “I think the county should expand restaurant and commercial business hours to allow for safe gathering and shopping, so there’s more public regulation of activities that people are engaging in.”