‘We’re losing the American dream:’ San Diego eateries fight return to takeout, delivery only

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SAN DIEGO — Some business owners in San Diego are fighting a California appeals court ruling that reversed a judge’s decision to allow on-site dining to resume.

“We’re losing our livelihood. We’re losing the American dream,” Alondra Ruiz, owner of The Village, said.

Ruiz kept her plant-based fusion restaurant in North Park open for outdoor dining last week despite the regional stay-at-home order. She said after the whiplash San Diego County restaurants endured this week, she’s fighting back in a new way, by bringing small business owners together.

An informational event was underway at The Village Saturday for other small business owners to hear community members and lawyers speak about their rights.

“There’s power in numbers. But if nobody stands up, the politicians that are shutting the businesses down are going to keep doing the same thing,” Ruiz said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom handed down the regional stay-at-home order that prohibits on-site dining earlier this month as hospitalizations throughout the Southern California region surged.

Public health leaders say San Diego County has seen a 220% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past 30 days and a 155% increase in ICU patients in the same time frame. The previous peak in hospitalizations in mid-July topped out at about 400 patients, compared to 1,263 people in area hospitals Saturday.

The county reported another 2,509 cases of COVID-19 following Friday’s record-high of 3,611 new infections. ICU availability rose from 16% to 19% Saturday as the county confirmed 27 new deaths attributed to coronavirus.

Dr. Cordie Williams, founder of nonprofit 1776 Forever Free, said he spoke at Saturday’s event to help small business owners survive. His organization’s website said it supports the constitutional rights of all Americans.

“The ones that don’t decide to resist, they’re going to go bankrupt,” Williams said.

Ruiz said it’s just not right when it comes to which businesses are restricted. She pointed to large corporations and retail organizations that are allowed to remain open with restrictions while outdoor dining is barred all together.

“Nordstrom is crowded. You know, people are buying things for the holidays,” Ruiz said. “Why aren’t they saying the virus is coming from there? It’s coming from the little mom-and-pop places, little businesses? We probably don’t even get more than 200 customers a day.”

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher supported the appeals court’s ruling Friday that upheld Newsom’s ban on on-site dining. He said in a statement that the “massive rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations” makes it necessary for government leaders to “make difficult decisions to slow the spread of the virus.”

Like some other restaurants, Ruiz said The Village will remain open for outdoor dining despite the restrictions and a cease-and-desist order from the county.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything illegal, anything wrong. Nobody’s being forced to come and eat here. Nobody’s being forced to support our business,” Ruiz said. “I’m fighting for my employees, for my family … We have rights, we need to stand up and we need to bring the community together that supports this message.”

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