San Diego appeals court reverses order letting strip clubs, restaurants reopen

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An appeals court overturned a San Diego judge’s ruling that allowed restaurants and strip clubs to reopen for in-door business amid statewide coronavirus restrictions, finding he issued an “overbroad injunction that was unsupported by the law.”

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The reversal was issued Friday in response to a preliminary injunction granted by Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil last month, which declared San Diego County “businesses with restaurant service” were exempt from COVID restrictions issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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The injunction also extended to include two San Diego strip clubs, the Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club and Pacers Showgirls International after they challenged the state’s pandemic response.

Pacer’s Showgirls International first challenged the state of California when the adult entertainment industry was excluded from the state’s pandemic reopening plan.

Both establishments were frustrated that they were able to reopen the restaurant aspect of their businesses, but not any “live adult entertainment,” noted the appeals ruling.

The Pacers submitted a ruling to the County and the City of San Diego, requesting that they be allowed to operate their entrainment business outdoors, though this was shot down by the San Diego Police Department, which is responsible for adult entertainment licenses.

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They then proposed reopening indoors with one performer on stage wearing a mask with rigorous sanitation practices – though they reportedly never heard back from the state on this suggestion.

Frustrated by what they said was a violation of their First Amendment right to freedom of expression, they reopened their indoor business, despite “Live entertainment at restaurants” being “prohibited.”

Both establishments were able to remain open for one month before being issued cease and desist letters.

The businesses filed another lawsuit one month later, eventually being allowed to open temporarily after Wohlfeil’s ruling.

But a three-justice panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal found on Friday that Wohlfeil “violated due process by enjoining the state and county parties from enforcing restaurant restrictions, and that portion of the preliminary injunction must be reversed.”

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The strip clubs will be able to operate their restaurant business in line with the state’s current protocols.

The ruling finished by reviewing the high risk nature of the coronavirus which is most aggressively transmitted through air particles and human to human contact.

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