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California judge rules San Diego strip clubs can stay open during lockdown, delivering blow to Newsom

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This could possibly provide an avenue for restaurants to reopen

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A judge ruled Wednesday that two San Diego strip clubs can remain open during California's coronavirus lockdown, which could potentially lead to restaurants reopening their doors.

Gov. Gavin Newsom was dealt a loss by a San Diego Superior Court judge, who ruled against the California governor's executive order that shuttered strip clubs.

Newsom issued a regional stay-at-home order on Dec. 3, which would "require bars, wineries, hair salons and other nonessential businesses across five areas to close for three weeks once a region's intensive care capacity falls below 15 percent," according to NBC News. Restaurants could continue to offer takeout and delivery, but live adult entertainment was ordered to shut down.

The owners of Pacers Showgirls International and Cheetahs Gentlemen's Club in San Diego rebelled against Newson's executive order and stayed open.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a cease-and-desist letter to both businesses on Friday that they were violating the Democratic governor's lockdown order. Becerra, also a Democrat, threatened legal action if the establishments did not comply.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil issued a nine-page preliminary injunction that permitted the strip clubs to continue operating.

Wohlfeil ruled that San Diego County had not provided sufficient evidence to prove that the strip clubs were increasing the spread of coronavirus.

"Accordingly, the court finds that Plaintiffs have been devoid of Covid, have done nothing to contribute to the spread of COVID, and have honored their representations to [Executive Director of the City of San Diego's Human Relations Commission and International Affairs Board] Dr. Joel Day and the County," Wohfeil wrote.

The judge ascertained that both clubs operated for five weeks during the pandemic, and instituted safety measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The establishments maintained a distance of 15 feet between strippers and tables, required employees to wear face masks, and did not permit more than one stripper per stage at a time.

Judge Wohlfeil added that the ruling for strip clubs also applied to "San Diego County businesses with restaurant services," making them exempt from shutdowns.

The judge stated, "Any governmental entity or law enforcement officer are hereby enjoined from enforcing the provisions of the cease and desist order, or any related orders including the State's Regional Stay Home Order, that prevent 1) plaintiffs from providing live adult entertainment; and 2) San Diego County businesses with restaurant service, such as plaintiffs' establishments, from continuing to operate their respective businesses, subject to protocols that are no greater than is essential to further defendants' response to control the spread of COVID."

On Wednesday, San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said, "A judge just ruled that he could not find a connection between restaurant services and the spread of COVID. He has directed the county to allow businesses with restaurant services to operate their business safely and responsibly."

Steve Hoffman, an attorney for Cheetahs, said, "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 at the same time providing a means for their staff to earn a livelihood."

Newsom's office reacted to the judge's ruling by telling Newsweek, "While we are disappointed in the court's decision today, we remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting the health and safety of all Californians. Our legal team is reviewing options to determine next steps."

The judge's ruling could provide a way to open restaurants in California.

As of Dec. 15, all but three counties in California were labeled as experiencing "widespread" COVID-19 outbreaks. In California's tier system, counties that are labeled as having widespread coronavirus outbreaks must close bars and breweries that don't serve food and restaurants are permitted to be open with outside dining only with modifications.

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