Los Angeles County health officials have announced that outdoor dining at food-service businesses will be prohibited starting Wednesday night, a decision questioned by the restaurant sector.

The restrictions come as coronavirus cases spike to record highs in the county and across the U.S. Cases are expected to continue rising this holiday season as a result of increased gatherings and travel.


The new health order will take effect Wednesday at 10 p.m. From then on, restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will only be permitted to receive take-out, delivery and drive-through orders. The restrictions will last at least three weeks.


According to a statement from the Public Health Department, the decision is an effort to “reduce the possibility for crowding and the potential for exposures in settings where people are not wearing their face coverings.”


The shutdown has angered a restaurant sector already in great distress after eight months of inconsistent regulations and reduced sales.


“I’m devastated,” said Karen Ross, owner of Tallyrand restaurant in Burbank. “We’re gonna go from doing 65 percent of our sales pre-COVID-19 – what we’ve been doing recently – back to 25 or 30 percent.”


She said the restriction forced her to temporarily furlough 24 of her staff – many of whom have been on the payroll for over a decade.


“You invest in the heaters, the (propane) tanks, all the PPE, keeping everybody safe, doing our thing and then – bam – it all gets pulled out from underneath us just weeks after we get it all going,” she said.


The Independent Hospitality Coalition in Los Angeles, which represents restaurants and their employees, released a statement questioning the decision by health officials without “any scientific proof that community spread of COVID-19 has increased due to socially-distant outdoor dining.”


“By banning all outdoor dining during these colder winter months, people will instead host more indoor parties, which will undoubtedly lead to more infections. Furthermore, curfews and outdoor dining restrictions have only exacerbated the problem and pushed more social gatherings indoors,” the coalition said.


Some county officials have also voiced their opposition to the outdoor dining restriction. Among them is Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents Valley neighborhoods and is chair of the Board of Supervisors.


“These proposed measures by the Department of Public Health will further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year,” Barger said in a statement. “Businesses throughout the county have invested thousands of dollars to ensure safety for their employees and customers only to be punished for the recent surge they have done everything in their power to prevent.”