A California restaurant is suing California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials over an order that forced it to close due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic after its owner shared a video of a television production with tables set up next to it.
In a lawsuit filed Sunday in federal court, the owner of the Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill in Sherman Oaks claims that Newsom’s orders have been overbroad and not based on science and that Newsom improperly allowed an unelected State Public Health Officer to determine which businesses can stay open and which must close without legislative input.
"Defendants, in a gross abuse of their power, have seized the Coronavirus pandemic to expand their authority by unprecedented lengths, depriving Plaintiff and all other similarly situated small business owners in California of fundamental rights protected by the U.S. and California Constitutions," the complaint states.
The restaurant has been banned from seating customers since orders earlier this month that banned outdoor dining. This was after Newsom had issued executive orders earlier in the year that allowed outdoor dining with certain safety measures and permitted limited indoor dining.
Owner Angela Marsden appeared in a video that went viral earlier this month in which she was preparing to protest the forced closure of her business after she took efforts to comply with safety guidelines to conduct outdoor dining. She showed that next door to her tent and outdoor tables which are currently not permitted to be used, there were tents and tables associated with the production of a television show set up outside in a parking lot.
"In her video, Ms. Marsden displays the hypocrisy, lunacy and total disparity between her own socially distanced outdoor set-up at her establishment juxtaposed by a similarly situated set-up containing outdoor tents and chairs associated with the NBC Universal production set for the series ‘Good Girls,’ which was allowed to proceed as essential work," the lawsuit says.
The complaint alleges that the reason for the exemptions and different standards "has nothing to do with science and data," and that it is based on Newsom and other officials "supporting their campaign donors at the expense of small businesses[.]"
According to a member of Newsom's office, the outdoor tables for the television production was permitted because it was not open to the public, so the individuals eating there are only those who are already working together.
According to the lawsuit, the forced closure of outdoor dining has kept Marsden from being able to recoup tens of thousands of dollars in expenses she incurred by complying with previous orders so that she could continue service.
The complaint also claims that government statements have sent mixed messages regarding the purpose of the restrictions. It notes that during a Dec. 8 California Department of Public Health broadcast, Dr. Mark Ghaly said that the decision to prohibit outdoor dining "really has to do with the goal of trying to keep people at home, not a comment on the relative safety of outdoor dining."
In a tweet two days later, however, Newsom encouraged Californians to go outside.
"Get outdoors with your household safely. Explore your neighborhood & CA’s beauty!" Newsom tweeted, suggesting that people go to a beach or playground, go for a hike, or walk their dog.
The lawsuit claims that the shutdown order violates the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly as well as the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments’ right to due process and the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law. It seeks injunctions barring the enforcement of the executive and regional orders.