Outdoor seating extends into the street in La Jolla Shores. Photo by Chris Jennewein

An appeals court Wednesday extended a stay on a San Diego judge’s ruling that would have allowed county restaurants and live adult entertainment venues to reopen amid COVID-19 restrictions.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments Jan. 19 in the case originally brought on by two San Diego strip clubs, which challenged the state’s pandemic restrictions.

The case was expanded to encompass all county restaurants through a preliminary injunction issued by San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil.

Two days after Wohlfeil’s ruling, which blocked enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions against live adult entertainment and county businesses that provide “restaurant service,” the appellate court issued a temporary stay on Wohlfeil’s order at the state and county’s behest.

On Wednesday, the same appellate court ruled that the stay should be extended and the appeal expedited.

“This appeal highlights the incredible hardships that so many people are suffering as a result of the global pandemic, and it requires us to consider the scope of the government’s authority to impose restrictions designed to curb the pandemic and protect public health,” the court’s Wednesday order reads.

“We are aware of the delicate balance of interests at stake, and we understand that reasonable minds can differ on the appropriate balance to strike.”

The lawsuit filed by Cheetahs Gentleman’s Club and Pacers Showgirls International was filed before Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a regional stay-at-home order, which banned both outdoor and indoor dining.

Wohlfeil wrote in his nine-page ruling that the state of California and San Diego County had not provided adequate evidence tying the spread of COVID-19 or lack of intensive care unit bed capacity to live adult entertainment or businesses with restaurant service.

Lawyers from the state have argued that Wohlfeil overreached in his ruling, as no restaurants were parties in the strip clubs’ lawsuit.

— City News Service

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