The powers that be in Los Angeles just seem to be trolling people at this point. After a judge found that a ban on outdoor dining was “arbitrary” and capricious, the Governor said that a ban on dining al fresco could be lifted. Now Los Angeles County is getting in on the action and will allow in-person, outdoor dining to resume. But there’s always a catch with these COVID restrictions and this case is no different. According to the latest executive order, restaurants can seat diners outdoors, but they have to either remove or turn off any televisions or other display screens that would be visible to the customers. Why? Who knows? They’re not saying, but it’s not hard to guess. (Free Beacon)
Los Angeles County allowed restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining Friday but forbid any from turning on their televisions.
“Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off,” the order published Thursday night states. “This provision is effective until further notice.” The L.A. County Department of Public Health did not give a reason for the television ban nor did it respond to a request for information or comment on it.
My first, admittedly sarcastic response to this news was to remind people that the novel coronavirus is spread through video screens. But even California Democrats couldn’t be that dumb, so it had to be something else.
Many observers quickly concluded that this restriction is essentially a “Super Bowl ban.” The big game is coming up and people might be tempted to find a restaurant with a big screen TV and sit there with their friends for hours watching the game. That suspicion appeared to be backed up by a comment from county supervisor Hilda Solis. She released a statement talking specifically about the football game and advised Angelinos to “resist that urge” if they are thinking about gathering with their friends on Super Bowl Sunday.
But if that’s the real reason, why not just ban televisions on February 7th? Or, if you want to get really authoritarian about it, order all of the restaurants to close one hour before kickoff. I suppose they might be afraid that tailoring the restriction that tightly would make them look as arbitrary and capricious as they actually are. They might also be worried about the possibility of a lawsuit from the NFL, though I somehow doubt that even Roger Goodell would stoop that low.
Couldn’t they just limit the amount of time that diners can remain in the restaurant to one hour? That’s what Baltimore did and it probably doesn’t sound all that much more ridiculous than this. Nobody is going to want to meet up with their friends to watch the game and be forced to leave before the first half is over.
It’s unclear how much of an actual effect this is going to have on the restaurant industry anyway. Most establishments can’t turn a profit on the smaller number of people they can seat outside while keeping all of the tables at least six feet apart. Some are going to remain closed and the others will only be able to keep a limited number of people employed while the rest remain on the unemployment line. The real upshot of this rule will almost certainly be that even more people will decide to get together at a friend’s house to watch the game no matter how many “advisories” the county supervisor issues. And those people will absolutely be more likely to ignore face mask mandates and all the rest of the restrictions while drinking beer and eating chicken wings.
People in Los Angeles County must be growing accustomed to seeing COVID restrictions that don’t appear to have any rhyme or reason. Remember that this is the same place where one restaurant owner’s outdoor service was shut down at the same moment that a movie studio was allowed to set up dining tents across the street from her. But hey… at least Los Angeles gets to look like it’s doing something, right? And in the end, that’s all that matters these days.