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California to Revoke Alcohol Licenses at Restaurants That Defy State Closure Orders

Restaurants in Yuba and Sutter counties received warnings from state Alcohol Beverage Control agents

Various liquor bottles
Shutterstock/Adam Calaitzis

Last week, Orange County restaurant Nomads Canteen in the city of San Clemente defied the state’s dining room closure order, opening to a throng of diners and imbibers at maximum capacity. Yuba and Sutter counties, less populated areas just north of Sacramento, also opted to allow restaurant reopenings this week, though with physical distancing requirements. However, California’s Alcohol Beverage Control visited multiple restaurants in Yuba and Sutter counties threatening to revoke any beer and wine or liquor license to restaurants that go against the statewide dining room closure mandate, according to the LA Times.

Alcohol Beverage Control agents asked restaurants in Yuba and Sutter counties to close voluntarily after defying the state order. ABC said going against state stay-at-home orders and mandated dining room closures “endangers public health and safety.”

Nomads Canteen announced it would reopen today, May 7, again in defiance of the state dining room closure order but with the support of Orange County Board of Supervisors, who told the Orange County Register that its health agency would “promptly [rescind] all threats and will take no enforcement action against Nomads as long as it continues to comply with Orange County’s guidelines.” Alcohol licenses are administered by ABC, which means any suspended or revoked license would affect a business’s ability to legally sell booze in California.

Orange County in particular has taken a different stance than state authorities or Los Angeles County, with some officials supporting the reopening of businesses and public beaches. While Orange County Health Care Agency County issued a warning to Nomads Canteen, supervisor Don Wagner told ABC 7 News that the county’s guidelines didn’t warrant such an action, saying, “Our hospital rates...are still better than surrounding communities. And we don’t urge our residents to do anything reckless, but it’s time for them to live their lives again.”

Orange County officials seem split on how to deal with businesses like Nomads Canteen that open in spite of the state’s stay-at-home order. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett also told ABC 7 News that the county board was not encouraging businesses to defy a state order, but that businesses could begin preparing to reopen. The division reflects the polarization of various state and local governments on when to reopen businesses, especially ones that require close proximity in enclosed spaces like restaurants. Georgia and Texas reopened restaurants this week, though with reduced dining room capacity while Illinois hinted at reopenings for late June.

In March, California ABC loosened rules for restaurants to sell sealed cocktails, wine bottles, and beer alongside takeout food to allow businesses to generate additional sales amid the mandated dining room closures.

Starting tomorrow, California Gov. Gavin Newsom will commence the next phase of the state’s reopening, allowing retail stores such as bookstores, music stores, florists, sporting good stores, clothing stores, and car dealerships to open with either curbside or limited capacity. Golf courses and trails will also open in the City of LA, though people will be required to wear masks at all times.

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