California judge renews strip club lockdown exemption

SAN DIEGO (AP) – Two San Diego strip clubs can remain open and make their own decisions about providing a safe environment for dancers and patrons during the pandemic, a judge ruled Wednesday, who blamed Gavin Newsom’s health mission that calls for such establishments to be closed.

The scope of the preliminary injunction of Judge Joel Wohlfeil, judge at the San Diego Supreme Court, seemed to extend well beyond the two clubs suing the state to potentially all of the thousands of restaurants in San Diego County, the second largest county in San Diego. the state after Los Angeles.

Wohlfiel said it applies to “San Diego County businesses with restaurant services,” including the strip clubs, and exempts them from closures and “all related orders” that block live adult entertainment and go beyond protocols “which are no greater are then essential “to control the spread of COVID-19.

The judge noted that Pacers International Showgirls and Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club were operating for five weeks during the pandemic under their own security measures, including keeping strippers 15 feet (4.6 meters) from tables, with no more than one stripper per stage. allowed and she and other employees needed to wear masks.

Michael Workman, a San Diego County spokesman, said district attorneys met “to decipher the ruling and determine what’s next. Stay tuned. ”Last week, provincial regulators vowed to appeal any extension of the strip club exemption initially granted last month by the judge.

The state attorney general’s office referred questions to Newsom and the California Department of Public Health. The governor’s office said the legal team was “examining options to determine next steps.”

“While we are disappointed with the court’s decision today, we remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting the health and safety of all Californians,” the Newsom office said in a statement.

Jason Saccuzzo, an attorney for Pacers, referred to the exact language of the warrant when asked about its scope, saying it was “a tough question to answer.”

Steve Hoffman, an attorney for Cheetahs, said he was “very satisfied” with the ruling and had no comment on whether it extended to other strip clubs and restaurants.

“Cheetahs and Pacers will continue to operate in a manner that takes all appropriate and essential measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while providing their staff with a means of subsistence,” he wrote in an email.

The ruling, which will take effect immediately, comes after Newsom’s Dec. 3 order to stay home in response to a spate of coronavirus cases that have hit hospitals across the state.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a “cease and desist” order against both clubs last week that they were violating the state’s new policy, which bans eating indoors and outdoors and banning social gatherings that affect people from bringing different households together in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Becerra wrote that he was acting on behalf of Newsom, a fellow Democrat, and the state health agency and that he will take legal action if the companies don’t follow the rules.

Wednesday’s ruling followed a spirited discussion lasting more than an hour over whether state authorities were breaking the law or acting to protect public health.

What will happen if there is a bigger emergency? Are we all under house arrest? Are we even going to have a constitution? Saccuzzo, Pacers’ attorney said, “I’m afraid we’ll end up in a country we don’t even recognize.”

Patti Li, a state attorney, highlighted the extreme scarcity of beds in the intensive care unit and the growing wait in hospital emergency rooms to justify what she emphasized were temporary measures.

“It’s really about the whole community, the whole state,” said Li. “This is the most serious moment of this pandemic in the state, in the nation, so far.”

Li contested the clubs’ argument that orders violated constitutional rights to free speech by banning adult entertainment, saying the restrictions target live performances with people nearby. “There is no focused expression here,” she said.

The clubs sued the state and county in October after being ordered to shut down.

Last month, a judge in another case turned down a petition to temporarily lift some restrictions on restaurants and gyms in San Diego County. The California Restaurant Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s ruling.