Judge says California strip clubs can remain open, set own coronavirus rules

A California judge delivered a blow to Governor Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions after ruling that two strip clubs in San Diego can remain open for business.

A San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the injunction request by the venues on Wednesday in a decision that could impact the struggling restaurants in the area as well. Though there were still some questions about the implication of the ruling, one restaurant owner quipped that if it means “taking off our clothes” to remain open, he will do it.

Pacers Showgirls International and Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club in San Diego defied Newsom’s latest stay-at-home orders which went into effect on Dec. 3, keeping their businesses open and earning a cease and desist letter from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra last week.

But on Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil issued a preliminary injunction allowing the businesses to stay open and continue to offer live dancing. But in the ruling, he also said it applies to “San Diego County businesses with restaurant services.”

(Source: CBS8)

“While we are disappointed in the court’s decision today,” Newsom’s office said in a statement to Newsweek, “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.”

Wohlfeil noted that his ruling applied to businesses “providing live adult entertainment” and “subject to protocols that are no greater than is essential to further Defendants’ response to control the spread of COVID.”

He made it clear that there was not enough evidence presented to show that restaurants and some businesses being allowed to remain open actually adds to the risk of getting infected with COVID-19.

“Given every opportunity, the County has provided the Court with no evidence that San Diego County businesses with restaurant service, such as Plaintiffs’ establishments, who’ve implemented protocols as directed by the County, present any risk — much less a greater risk than before Governor Newsom issued his December 3, 2020 Regional Stay at Home Order — to the spread of COVID,” he wrote.

“These business establishments provide sustenance to and enliven the spirits of the community, while providing employers and employees with means to put food on the table and secure shelter, clothing, medical care, education and, of course, peace of mind for they and their families,” Wohlfeil wrote.

The judge pointed out that the two San Diego clubs had established their own safety measures, keeping the strippers 15 feet away from customers, and allowing only one performer onto a stage at a time. In addition, the dancers and other employees were all required to wear masks.

Other businesses in the area weighed in on the ruling and its implications for beleaguered owners who have been struggling to stay afloat amid Newsom’s unrelenting coronavirus orders.

“The overall category in the ruling is ‘businesses with restaurant service,’ and I think Cowboy Star is a business that provides restaurant service,” Jon Weber, co-owner of Cowboy Star in downtown San Diego, told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You could read the ruling a couple of different ways, depending on your bias. At Cowboy Star, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is takeout. We’re not making any decisions tonight,” he said.

Chad Klein, co-owner of the Waterfront Bar & Grill and other venues, was not too clear on what the judge’s ruling meant for his businesses but said he is willing to do “what it takes.”

“It kind of says that restaurants can reopen but the caveat there may be that someone has to be stripping, which seems so wild to me,” Klein said. ”If that’s what it takes for us to reopen our businesses — taking off our clothes, I’ll do it.”

“Clearly it applies to us and if other businesses look at it and want to run with it, that’s their decision,” Jason Saccuzzo, the lawyer for Pacers, said. “We fully support all restaurant owners and if our little case does anything to help them out, that’s great.”


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