Judge sides with restaurants over outdoor dining ban, says LA County 'acted arbitrarily'

A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday issued a ruling that stated Los Angeles County "acted arbitrarily" and "failed to perform the required risk-benefit analysis" when it banned outdoor dining as a coronavirus-control measure as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Southern California. 

RELATED: Judge to hear evidence justifying outdoor dining ban in Los Angeles County

However, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant noted that due to the state's overriding regional stay-at-home order through the Christmas holiday, which also includes an in-person dining ban, "outdoor restaurant dining in the county cannot reopen at this time."

According to documents obtained by FOX 11's Bill Melugin, Judge Chalfant wrote that L.A. County "could be expected to consider the economic cost of closing 30,000 restaurants, the impact to restaurant owners and their employees, and the psychological and emotional cost to a public tired of the pandemic.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the judge ordered a tentative ruling that was finalized following an afternoon hearing.

During the meeting, county officials said they "vehemently" disagree with the judge's tentative order.

Attorney Amnon Siegel, representing the county, argued that the type of economic analysis that Judge Chalfant was asking for is a "borderline impossible task" and is not required by law. 

Siegel also noted that secondary transmission of the virus is a huge problem and having uncontrolled community transmission without containment when so many people have co-morbidities puts the public at risk.

The judge said that the county's argument was inconsistent with the evidence.

The order to suspend all in-person dining at restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries went into effect the night of Nov. 25. 

RELATED: LA County to suspend all in-person dining as COVID-19 cases surge

In accordance with state guidelines, L.A. County restaurants were prohibited from offering indoor dining while in California’s most-restrictive tier. 

The California Restaurant Association challenged the in-person dining ban and Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Khan pushed for the Board to reconsider. Despite the late push, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of the outdoor dining ban on Nov. 24. 

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

County health officials then tightened the order and said outdoor dining would also be banned for at least the next three weeks.


• LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas defends voting to ban outdoor dining

• Beverly Hills city leaders unanimously oppose LA County's outdoor dining ban

• Supervisor Janice Hahn says she didn't see the data that supported closing outdoor dining

• LA County Supervisor dines at restaurant hours after voting to ban outdoor dining

Chef Andrew Gruel fights back against California's outdoor dining restrictions

Restaurant owners who have been fighting to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic have expressed their frustrations. Many of them were heartbroken that they have been left with no choice but to lay off more employees with the holiday season in full swing. Some restaurant owners also fear they will have no choice but to close their doors permanently. 

RELATED: Local restaurant owners: 'We can’t survive another shutdown'

CNS and FOX 11's Mary Stringini and Chelsea Edwards contributed to this report.