Wave Wire Services
SANTA MONICA — A judge denied a March 17 request by the owners of the Classic Cat for a preliminary injunction allowing dining in the eatery’s patio, which they maintain is sufficiently ventilated to avoid any potential spread of the coronavirus and vital to keeping the business viable.
The owners say the patio has a retractable roof that creates COVID-safe outdoor dining at the West Hollywood restaurant and that they also have added numerous protections, including plexiglass and air ventilation improvements.
Lawyers for the county maintained the patio did not meet county standards for outdoor dining.
Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Elaine W. Mandel said that although the restaurant owners provided strong evidence they could go out of business without patio dining, they had not provided anyone who had the expertise to show the patio was sufficiently ventilated.
The judge wrote that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health maintained that allowing dining at the Classic Cat “could result in severe harm to the public and increased risk of COVID-19 transmission.”
She noted that the county health order allows takeout and delivery at the restaurant, but the owners maintain those options are not economically sufficient, while also noting that county guidelines are “evolving” and were revised as recently as March 15.
The restaurant filed suit against the county in late February alleging that ongoing coronavirus restrictions could force the restaurant to close permanently. Those restrictions have since been eased.
One of the restaurant’s owners said he understood the initial health concerns, but said measures the county had taken were unfair.
“We understood the need to protect public safety during a pandemic and like so many restaurant owners, we’ve bent over backwards to be as proactive as possible,” Donn Berdahl said.
“However, month and after month, our reopening was delayed. The longer the delays, the more our expenses pile up with no revenue coming in and our workers facing the prospect of losing their jobs.”
Lawyers for the Classic Cat say its owners have been left with no choice but to try and protect their investment as well as the interests of the restaurant workers they consider family members by filing a lawsuit protesting what they says is a “broad, vague government overreach.”
“Patience can only take you so far when you play by the rules, but how are businesses supposed to survive when the rules of the game keep changing?” plaintiffs’ attorney Rod Pacheco asked. “Small business owners, restaurant owners and workers need immediate protection. We need immediate injunctive relief from an overreaching government that has failed to produce any health data to justify its capricious and arbitrary shutdown orders.”
The historical Classic Cat was a highly popular stop for locals and tourists, as well as celebrities such as the late Adam West, Charlton Heston and Jim Morrison, as well as Chevy Chase. The modern Classic Cat owners say they intended to build on that heritage, but with an upscale ambience and menu.