California officials are warning restaurants opening for dine-in service in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus stay-at-home order that they may risk losing their liquor license.
The warnings from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) came a week after two sparsely populated Northern California counties said some businesses could open in violation of the order with social distancing guidelines, The Los Angeles Times reported.
ABC agents visited restaurants in Yuba and Sutter counties north of Sacramento on Tuesday, requesting they voluntarily close their dining rooms, an ABC spokesperson told The Times.
“They’re making a big mistake,” Newsom said Tuesday of the defiant counties. “They’re putting their public at risk. They’re putting our progress at risk. These are real exceptions. The overwhelming majority of Californians are playing by the rules, doing the right thing.”
ABC said in a statement on its website it had received “numerous complaints” about establishments opening in violation of the order but added that 98 percent of them closed voluntarily.
“The Department will not pursue disciplinary action against these licensees,” the statement said. “For any licensee who has continued to operate despite the Department’s efforts to persuade them to voluntarily comply, the Department is pursuing administrative action against the licensed premises, an action that could result in the suspension or revocation of the license.”
Under California’s stay-at-home order, restaurants can operate for takeout and delivery but not for dine-in services. Bars that don’t serve food are prohibited from opening.
The agency said defiance of the order “endangers public health and safety,” but noted that only a small number of restaurants are causing problems and the restaurant “industry should be proud that it is doing its part to combat this public health crisis.”
By Tuesday, only one person in Yuba and Sutter counties was suspected to have the virus, according to the California Health and Human Services Agency, The Times reported.
Newsom said Thursday that some businesses, such as book and clothing stores, can reopen for curbside service but dine-in service at restaurants will be part of a later phase of easing the restrictions.