A Los Angeles County Judge Tuesday tentatively ruled the county’s Public Health Department “acted arbitrarily” in implementing a prohibition on outdoor dining.

The judge stopped the county from extending the ban beyond its original expiration on Dec. 16, but that doesn’t mean county restaurants will be able to reopen then. The statewide Stay at Home order last weekend supersedes regulations from county officials. The earliest that order could expire is Dec. 27, so dining tents and patios will remain shuttered at least until that date.


In his decision addressing lawsuits filed by the California Restaurant Association and L.A. restaurant Engine Co. No. 28 that challenged the county ban, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant wrote in his decision: “The Restaurant Closure Order is an abuse of the Department’s emergency powers, is not grounded in science, evidence or logic, and should be adjudicated to be unenforceable as a matter of law.”


He added the county failed to perform a comprehensive risk-benefit assessment to justify the restriction and that the virus transmission data provided by county officials shows restaurants aren’t among the top spreader locations, especially when they implement mitigation tactics.


“By failing to weigh the benefits of an outdoor dining restriction against its costs, the county acted arbitrarily and its decision lacks a rational relationship to a legitimate end,” Chalfant wrote.


The consequence of Chalfant’s ruling is to require county officials to provide more data and conduct a new risk-benefit analysis if they want to extend the outdoor dining ban or implement a new one in the future.