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Disney Considers Coronavirus-Related Lawsuit to Force California’s Theme Parks Open

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The California Attractions and Parks Association, which includes Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and others, says that “all options are on the table”

Disney California Adventure Food Festival
A pre-pandemic group of Disneyland customers at a food festival
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

A consortium of California’s biggest theme park companies is considering a lawsuit aimed at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, according to multiple reports. At issue is the state’s stifling tiered coronavirus business plan, says the California Attractions and Parks Association (CAPA), which would put most large theme parks at or near the back of the queue for reopening, all while leaving tens of thousands of workers without their old jobs until well into 2021.

In a conversation with the Hollywood Reporter, Erin Guerrero of the CAPA called the current plan at times unworkable, arbitrary, and shameful, adding that “all options are open at this point” for possible legal recourse.

Under a newly-released set of statewide standards announced Tuesday by California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, large-scale parks like Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland won’t be given the go-ahead to reopen in any capacity until each parks’ respective county reaches the state’s least-restrictive reopening tier. (Here’s a primer on California’s tiered system, and how it relates to restaurants.)

To do that, those counties would need to see a COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 2 percent, and an adjusted case rate of less than one in 100,000 new cases per day. As it stands today, Orange County (home to Disneyland) is in the red, or substantial, tier, with an adjusted case rate of 4.6, and a positivity rate of 3.2 percent. Los Angeles County is in the higher purple, or widespread, tier, with an adjusted case rate of 7.6, and a positivity rate of 3.4 percent.

Dr. Ghaly did say that smaller parks could reopen more quickly in other parts of the state, mostly because they attract fewer and mostly local customers, thus dampening the threat of a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus. In short: Don’t expect Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, or Knott’s Berry Farm back in any meaningful way until the summer of 2021 at the earliest — at least without something changing from the Governor’s office.

The potential lawsuit is just the latest salvo in what has become a contentious battle over the reopening of theme parks statewide. Earlier this month Disney’s Bob Iger quit Newsom’s highly-publicized economic task force in a huff over the state’s refusal to reopen Disneyland, while simultaneously announcing the layoff of 28,000 Disney workers from the company’s parks department. Most of those affected were hospitality and restaurant employees.

The iconic theme park has a long food history, from the famous Dole Whip and churros to the exclusive Club 33 dinnertime fine dining restaurant. More recently, the company has been trying to make it through the pandemic by experimenting with to-go and delivery orders of its food instead.


1313 S Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802 (714) 781-4565 Visit Website