Federal lawsuit aims to overturn outdoor dining ban while local family-owned restaurants struggle to survive

A lawsuit has been filed in federal court aimed at overturning the state’s recent ban on outdoor dining.

The lawsuit stems from a now-viral video posted online by the owner of the Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill in Sherman Oaks, which was forced to shutter its outdoor dining space while a movie shoot set-up was allowed to operate about 50 feet away.

"The argument is that there’s absolutely no data - there’s no reason to shut down restaurants for outdoor dining," said restauranteur and attorney Mark Geragos, whose legal team filed the lawsuit. "In fact, when the county one was overturned they asked the doctor who’s in charge of health and human services - Dr. Ghaly - "What do you say about this?"

RELATEDStay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

And he said, "Well in actuality there is no risk or a very scant risk of outdoor dining being transmittable of the virus, and what we’re really trying to do is force people to stay home."

The lawsuit could have wide-ranging implications for struggling restaurants across the Southland, which have been hard-hit by the pandemic and the ever-changing guidelines that have come with it.

"The story that I was always told was that we were the first pizzeria on the West Coast. Now, of course, that’s coming from my father, you know, and I’m not sure exactly how true that is, but we definitely were the first pizzeria in Los Angeles," said second-generation Miceli’s owner Frank Miceli, visibly smiling behind his face mask.

His flagship restaurant on Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood has been serving customers since 1949 when his parents opened the now-iconic spot. He, like so many other family-run business owners, took advantage of the Payment Protection Program loan, but struggled to make it last as the pandemic stretched on.

"If we had known this was going to last nine months, we would have done the PPP totally different," Miceli said. He has done everything in his power to keep the restaurant’s two locations afloat - including following all safety guidelines and building an outdoor dining space with help from the city.

Miceli says, "They gave us these k-rails that are out here so we could have dining in the street, gave us five extra tables so we could put another 20 people out here. And literally within a week, that got closed down."

That was a blow that now threatens to put the 72-year-old landmark out of business for good. Miceli’s niece has since set up a GoFundMe page asking for the community’s help in keeping the family’s business going.

Miceli choked back tears as he expressed his gratitude for the generosity of long-time customers and complete strangers alike.

While Geragos’s legal team waits for a judge to be assigned to the case, restaurant owners like Miceli are just hoping that they can survive.

"It’s just frustrating because I think there’s some logic behind it, but there are questions have not been answered," Miceli said. "As a business owner, as a property owner, as an employer of 120 people that right now don’t have jobs...it’s frustrating."

Information on the GoFundMe page can be found by clicking here.

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.