Kern County restaurants sue Governor Gavin Newsom over stay-at-home order

KC Steakhouse
Posted at 5:02 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 12:17:28-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — At least 19 Kern County restaurants are filing a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom, calling his latest restrictions on the restaurant industry unconstitutional, according to the Law Offices of Thomas Anton and Associates.

Except for takeout, Newsom's order prompts all restaurants to halt indoor and outdoor operations, if the region they fall under has an intensive care unit capacity lower than 15%. Kern County is in the San Joaquin Valley region, which has an ICU capacity of 5.6 percent, the lowest among the five regions designated by the governor.

"There's no question about it, he has substantial emergency powers but they have to be within reason," Thomas Anton, the attorney representing the local restaurants said.

"We have a sheriff and a police chief who have declared that they are not going to enforce the order that the governor has issued, however, the Alcohol Beverage and Control Department of the state of California, has undertaken to enforce the governor's order by threatening to take away, and or suspend liquor licenses."

ABC spokesman John Carr told 23ABC News that the department visited 207 Kern County restaurants in the last four days, but did not issue any citations, nor suspend any liquor licenses, however, they "did issue warnings in person or by phone call."

"In the meantime, ABC prefers education over enforcement," Carr said.

Anton says stripping liquor licenses away from restaurants would be devastating as they account for 40 to 45 percent of the revenue for the restaurants he is representing.

Cassie Bittle, a co-owner of KC Steak House confirmed with 23ABC News Tuesday that her establishment is one of the restaurants joined in the suit.

"Without at least 25 percent capacities on the inside and outside, we're not going to make it," Bittle said. "When our employees are having to worry about putting food on the table on Christmas Day or whether they can spend money on presents for their kids or even if they can make it into 2021 to be able to make their house payments. We just can't stand for this anymore. We can't stand for the pain and suffering of the American worker."

According to Anton, the constant changes to the state's rules are another reason the restaurants are filing suit. Gino Valpredo, the owner of Luigi's, is considering joining the suit for that reason among others. He says the continuous moving of the goalposts has cost him thousands of dollars.

"There is a million things I can go over," Valpredo said. "We've put up tents, we've taken down, we've hired, we've fired, interviewed 85 people when we reopened in June, got rid of those 15 people that we hired. It's madness."

The lawsuit against the governor is expected to be filed on Wednesday.