County suspends enforcing coronavirus order regarding restaurants and live entertainment after court ruling

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San Diego County said the night of Dec. 16 that it was suspending enforcement of provisions of California’s regional coronavirus order regarding restaurants and live entertainment establishments in response to a court decision earlier in the day.

A county Superior Court judge ruled that the state and county are prohibited from enforcing the stay-at-home order against two San Diego strip clubs, Pacers Showgirls International in the Midway District and Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club in Kearny Mesa. The county issued a statement announcing it was suspending enforcement of relevant portions of the order until it has clarity about the scope of the ruling by Judge Joel Wohlfeil.

“The state and the county are analyzing the scope of the ruling and discussing next steps, which includes seeking clarity from the court,” county Communications Director Mike Workman said in a statement. “Until we have clarity, we have suspended enforcement activities against restaurants and live entertainment establishments.”

Wohlfeil, who previously granted a similar temporary restraining order for Cheetahs and Pacers, wrote in his nine-page ruling that the state and county have not provided evidence tying the spread of COVID-19 or lack of intensive care unit bed capacity to live adult entertainment or “businesses with restaurant service.” It was unclear exactly what businesses with restaurant service the ruling would apply to.

The ruling came after the clubs received cease-and-desist letters recently from the California attorney general’s office, which stated that Cheetahs and Pacers were operating in violation of the Dec. 3 stay-at-home policy barring outdoor and indoor dining, as well as large gatherings.

Attorney Jason Sacuzzo, who represents Pacers, argued there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19 transmission traced to either club since Wohlfeil issued the temporary restraining order in early November, a claim Wohlfeil referenced in his ruling.

Deputy Attorney General Patty Li, representing the state, argued Dec. 16 that the condition of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has changed since Wohlfeil’s initial ruling, citing increased case and death numbers, as well as a reduction in ICU capacity in the Southern California region, which she said was currently at 0.5%.

Wohlfeil’s ruling is at odds with another San Diego judge’s finding in a separate case that denied a request from local restaurants and gyms to reopen. A hearing on the request for a preliminary injunction in that case is slated for Friday, Dec. 18.

— The San Diego Union Tribune contributed to this report.