Some businesses in California's purple tier push back against regulations

Virus Outbreak California
Posted at 3:00 PM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-26 20:45:43-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Some businesses in purple tier counties across California are pushing back against the new restrictions.

This comes as counties and local law enforcement try to find a balance between keeping people safe and enforcing the law.

"They are not playing fair. It's just an across the board you're going to do what we say," Larry McNamer, owner of Major’s Diner, said last week a few hours after the County of San Diego hit him with a cease-and-desist letter.

The letter said his restaurant was in violation of the order of the state health officer and the county order of the health officer and emergency regulations.

"We are doing everything that we should be doing and can do to make sure that any customer that walks through the front door is safe," McNamer said.

As the state once again clamps down on businesses, some question whether the restrictions are legal.

"The fact is that the government possesses the authority to enact emergency regulations to protect the people. Individuals do not have a constitutional right to go out into the community and harm others," said Michael Jenkins, lecturer in law at the University of Southern California law school.

Jenkins says the governor has powers under both the California constitution and the California emergency services act.

At the local level, the law allows the health officer to take any preventive measure necessary to protect and preserve public health.

"The governor has the authority to issue a statewide emergency. The county health officer has authority in California law to issue county wide states of emergency and those orders are applicable in all cities in the county," Jenkins said.

On Monday, a San Diego judge denied a request by businesses that argued the state's emergency services act violates the California constitution. The judge wrote that the impact on public health of dismantling a portion of the state's COVID-19 response designed to reduce community spread outweighs the economic harm to plaintiffs.

But the court's decision doesn't impact local enforcement, something that varies by county.

"We are not going to respond simply to people gathering in a house where there's too many," Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said in response to California's limited stay-at-home order.

A spokesperson for the Kern County Department of Public Health sent us a list of verified complaints against businesses, adding that they've sent educational letters to the businesses that advise them of the state orders.

A different story in San Diego County, where the county's sent a number of cease-and-desist health order violations. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has issued one citation so far this month.

In San Luis Obispo County, the public health department says they continue to take an approach that prioritizes education first as we work to bring local businesses into compliance with the governor's orders. Since July, the county has issued four directed orders which tell businesses to come into compliance.

State officials say the restrictions are in place to protect the public. For resources on employment, food, and health visit the Rebound section.