Coronavirus Puts Counterproductive Regulations Into Perspective

Governments in the United States are restricting freedoms to unprecedented degrees in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As dangerous as this expansion of power is, in some ways, federal, state, and local governments are also reducing their intrusions into our lives by cutting many regulations.

This deregulation falls into three categories: help people deal with the virus (including those who are confined to their homes with children who need to be home-schooled); help businesses stay open and cater to their consumers under these unusual circumstances; and free the private health care sector to better respond to the virus.

Here are just a few of the rules that were lifted to enhance our freedom and our safety:

In New York state, the government has suspended a regulation mandating that child care providers undergo criminal background checks. The state’s governor also eliminated almost two dozen other regulations, including those that artificially restrict the number of children allowed in day care facilities to ones that set minimum staffing requirements.

Many states have also lifted restrictions to home-based instructional policies. The Federal Communications Commission waived existing E-Rate rules to allow schools to issue Wifi hotspots or devices to students who lack internet access at home. And the U.S. Department of Education has eased rules that made it unnecessarily difficult for colleges and universities to shift classes online.

To help avoid shortages in stores, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a nationwide exemption to some rules forbidding most commercial truckers from driving more than 11 hours in a 14-hour span. The DOT also relaxed a rule requiring that drivers’ rest periods be a minimum of 10 hours; now each rest period can be split into two separate breaks. In Texas, trucks are now allowed to deliver both groceries and alcohol at the same time. Some states, like Alabama, are also allowing prescriptions to be filled for longer than 30 days. But the best deregulation of an unnecessary rule is that the Transportation Security Administration, at least during this crisis, now allows passengers to bring liquid hand sanitizer containers of up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags.

Many businesses that deal directly with the public may now cater to consumers in ways that were once forbidden. For instance, several states, including Texas and New Hampshire, now allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with carryout and delivery orders. New Jersey just allowed microbreweries and brewpubs to deliver beers. Other jurisdictions—in order to reduce the spread of the virus—have lifted their bans on plastic bags and single-use cups. And some states now allow spirit distillers to produce hand sanitizer. Meanwhile, North Dakota now recognizes expired occupational licenses.

On the health care front, many states now recognize physicians and other medical professionals who are licensed in other states. Colorado, California, and other states extended a grace period for lapsed licenses for retired doctors and nurses who want to practice. And the Department of Health and Human Services is lifting the rules preventing doctors and medical professionals to practice across state lines.

Many states also lifted certificate of need regulations, rapidly increasing health care capacity. HHS and many states have eased restrictions on the practice of telemedicine, too, thus allowing patients to see their doctors from the comfort and safety of their homes.

The Food and Drug Administration—an agency that has rightfully been shamed for the role it played in our current lack of COVID-19 tests and face masks—is eliminating some of its counterproductive rules. For instance, the agency is streamlining the process to expedite COVID-19 tests. It’s allowing private companies to market the COVID-19 test without prior approval as well.

The Trump administration is also relaxing some of its tariffs on certain medical equipment and supplies. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency lifted the protectionist Buy American Act, now giving Puerto Rico and other territories discretion to acquire personal protective equipment from non-U.S. sources.

The large number of rules lifted by federal, state, and local governments in response to this pandemic reveals the sad reality that many regulations serve little to no good public purpose. Hopefully, people will realize how counterproductive these rules were and will not allow them to be reinstated after the crisis is over. In the end, we’ll all be freer and safer.

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Coronavirus Puts Counterproductive Regulations Into Perspective

Governments in the United States are restricting freedoms to unprecedented degrees in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As dangerous as this expansion of power is, in some ways, federal, state, and local governments are also reducing their intrusions into our lives by cutting many regulations.

This deregulation falls into three categories: help people deal with the virus (including those who are confined to their homes with children who need to be home-schooled); help businesses stay open and cater to their consumers under these unusual circumstances; and free the private health care sector to better respond to the virus.

Here are just a few of the rules that were lifted to enhance our freedom and our safety:

In New York state, the government has suspended a regulation mandating that child care providers undergo criminal background checks. The state’s governor also eliminated almost two dozen other regulations, including those that artificially restrict the number of children allowed in day care facilities to ones that set minimum staffing requirements.

Many states have also lifted restrictions to home-based instructional policies. The Federal Communications Commission waived existing E-Rate rules to allow schools to issue Wifi hotspots or devices to students who lack internet access at home. And the U.S. Department of Education has eased rules that made it unnecessarily difficult for colleges and universities to shift classes online.

To help avoid shortages in stores, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a nationwide exemption to some rules forbidding most commercial truckers from driving more than 11 hours in a 14-hour span. The DOT also relaxed a rule requiring that drivers’ rest periods be a minimum of 10 hours; now each rest period can be split into two separate breaks. In Texas, trucks are now allowed to deliver both groceries and alcohol at the same time. Some states, like Alabama, are also allowing prescriptions to be filled for longer than 30 days. But the best deregulation of an unnecessary rule is that the Transportation Security Administration, at least during this crisis, now allows passengers to bring liquid hand sanitizer containers of up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags.

Many businesses that deal directly with the public may now cater to consumers in ways that were once forbidden. For instance, several states, including Texas and New Hampshire, now allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with carryout and delivery orders. New Jersey just allowed microbreweries and brewpubs to deliver beers. Other jurisdictions—in order to reduce the spread of the virus—have lifted their bans on plastic bags and single-use cups. And some states now allow spirit distillers to produce hand sanitizer. Meanwhile, North Dakota now recognizes expired occupational licenses.

On the health care front, many states now recognize physicians and other medical professionals who are licensed in other states. Colorado, California, and other states extended a grace period for lapsed licenses for retired doctors and nurses who want to practice. And the Department of Health and Human Services is lifting the rules preventing doctors and medical professionals to practice across state lines.

Many states also lifted certificate of need regulations, rapidly increasing health care capacity. HHS and many states have eased restrictions on the practice of telemedicine, too, thus allowing patients to see their doctors from the comfort and safety of their homes.

The Food and Drug Administration—an agency that has rightfully been shamed for the role it played in our current lack of COVID-19 tests and face masks—is eliminating some of its counterproductive rules. For instance, the agency is streamlining the process to expedite COVID-19 tests. It’s allowing private companies to market the COVID-19 test without prior approval as well.

The Trump administration is also relaxing some of its tariffs on certain medical equipment and supplies. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency lifted the protectionist Buy American Act, now giving Puerto Rico and other territories discretion to acquire personal protective equipment from non-U.S. sources.

The large number of rules lifted by federal, state, and local governments in response to this pandemic reveals the sad reality that many regulations serve little to no good public purpose. Hopefully, people will realize how counterproductive these rules were and will not allow them to be reinstated after the crisis is over. In the end, we’ll all be freer and safer.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

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Virginia Man Shoots an Active Robber in Store, Is Arrested Himself

An employee temporarily sleeping in Arlington Smoke Shop in Arlington, Virginia, was arrested early Sunday morning on three charges related to him firing a weapon—one that his boss had supplied to him—at burglars who had broken into the store. He ended up wounding one of the three burglars—a juvenile.

As Arlington Now reports, “Police say a group of three suspects broke into [the] store…and began stealing cash and merchandise.” According to police reports, 33-year-old Hamzeh Abushariah then “opened the door to the sales floor and discharged the weapon, striking one juvenile subject. The employee retreated to the back room but reentered the sales floor and discharged his weapon again as the subjects were attempting to flee the business.”

The other two burglars escaped on foot, and Abushariah was arrested and charged with malicious wounding, reckless handling of a firearm, and violation of a protective order, as the shooter was, according to police, under a previous order to not legally possess a firearm. Conviction on all three charges could lead to him spending up to 25 years in prison.

Interest in armed self-defense is demonstrably spiking, likely due to fears of criminal unrest in a country where up to one-third of the population suddenly has no income because of COVID-19 economic shutdowns. In such times especially, the notion that using a weapon to defend your business from robbers makes you the criminal unsettles the owner of the smoke shop.

Jowan Zuber, the owner of the store, took to Tucker Carlson Tonight last night to decry the police’s actions. “The neighbor upstairs said when they broke the window it sounded like a car smashing into the store. The employee said it sounded like a shotgun,” he said to Carlson. “It’s very sad for America today as American citizens practice their Second Amendment to protect the store and their lives….Do you know what the [responding] police officer told [Abushariah]? ‘Why didn’t you run out the back door?'”

According to Zuber, he was not able to post the $25,000 bond for his employee, as it was successfully “appealed by the prosecutor.” It’s always dangerous to be in jail or prison, for whatever reason, and especially so in the age of COVID-19, something that prosecutors might want to consider more soberly.

The Democratic commonwealth’s attorney for the county, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, has previously been a promoter of maximum transparency in policing but so far has only issued a gnomic statement insisting that the police know things they can’t tell us yet that more clearly justify the arrest.

She told local news station WJLA ABC7:

“I cannot ethically discuss an ongoing investigation because doing so would not only risk compromising our work but also unfairly impede on the rights of the accused and interfere with the investigation. Suffice it to say, there is evidence we are not at liberty to share that support the charges, the decision was not made lightly, and we ask the public not to rush to judgment on what is very much a live investigation.”

Attorney Marina Medvin of Alexandria, a specialist in self-defense law, says in a phone interview today that she doesn’t know enough about the specific facts to know how it will likely turn out. Virginia law depends, she points out, on very fact-specific balancing questions about “reasonableness” of force used and whether the danger the user of a weapon in self-defense faced is “extreme” or if his actions prevented “great bodily harm.” It would be a mistake to try to predict a cut-and-dried outcome with the facts the police have released, she says.

Regardless, a 2000 Virginia Supreme Court decision in Virginia v. Alexander that Medvin pointed out is likely bad news for Abushariah’s defense, as it concludes “a deadly weapon may not be brandished solely in defense of personal property” in Virginia law.

Whether Abushariah can successfully convince a jury his life was reasonably threatened is uncertain, though perhaps prosecutorial discretion should go to a citizen innocently defending his person and property from robbers. Tens of millions of Americans who own guns for the defense of their lives and property may be wondering the same thing.

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Larry David Says People Who Object to COVID-19 Lockdowns Are ‘Idiots’

Larry David has recorded a PSA urging Californians to stay at home (as they are legally required to do, except for essential errands) and thereby avoid catching or transmitting COVID-19. It is pretty funny, until you contemplate the economically privileged assumptions underlying his message.

“I basically want to address the idiots out there,” says the co-creator of Seinfeld and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm while sitting in a living room chair. “You know who you are. You’re going out. I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re socializing too close. It’s not good. You’re hurting old people like me. Well, not me. I have nothing to do with you. I’ll never see you. But, you know, let’s say other old people, who might be your relatives. Who the hell knows?”

In case the health of elderly relatives is not enough of an argument, David offers an added enticement. “The problem is, you’re passing up a fantastic opportunity—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to stay in the house, sit on the couch, and watch TV!” he says. “I mean, I don’t know how you’re passing that up. Well, maybe because you’re not that bright. But here it is: Go home! Watch TV! That’s my advice to you.” There follows some patter about how “nothing good ever happens outside of the house” and the proper sanitary procedure in the event of a “plumbing emergency” that requires professional attention.

Interpreted as a warning to avoid infecting people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, David’s advice is unexceptionable, and fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm will find his irascible, condescending manner amusing rather than off-putting. But his assumption that anyone who chafes at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order must be an irresponsible idiot who doesn’t care about the welfare of his grandmother ignores the millions of people who have lost their jobs or businesses as a result of the governor’s edict and are now struggling to get by.

Even if you believe that the economic burden is justified by the goals of curtailing the epidemic, saving vulnerable people, and preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, the hardship caused by such aggressive interventions cannot be (or at least should not be) lightly dismissed. By implying that people who are worried about covering their bills because they have been forcibly deprived of their livelihoods are just too stupid to know a good thing when they see it, David shows the hallmark insensitivity of his Curb Your Enthusiasm character, but in this case at the expense of actual human beings who are suffering through no fault of their own. For a celebrity with a net worth of $400 million, it’s an easy mistake to make.

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Virginia Man Shoots an Active Robber in Store, Is Arrested Himself

An employee temporarily sleeping in Arlington Smoke Shop in Arlington, Virginia, was arrested early Sunday morning on three charges related to him firing a weapon—one that his boss had supplied to him—at burglars who had broken into the store. He ended up wounding one of the three burglars—a juvenile.

As Arlington Now reports, “Police say a group of three suspects broke into [the] store…and began stealing cash and merchandise.” According to police reports, 33-year-old Hamzeh Abushariah then “opened the door to the sales floor and discharged the weapon, striking one juvenile subject. The employee retreated to the back room but reentered the sales floor and discharged his weapon again as the subjects were attempting to flee the business.”

The other two burglars escaped on foot, and Abushariah was arrested and charged with malicious wounding, reckless handling of a firearm, and violation of a protective order, as the shooter was, according to police, under a previous order to not legally possess a firearm. Conviction on all three charges could lead to him spending up to 25 years in prison.

Interest in armed self-defense is demonstrably spiking, likely due to fears of criminal unrest in a country where up to one-third of the population suddenly has no income because of COVID-19 economic shutdowns. In such times especially, the notion that using a weapon to defend your business from robbers makes you the criminal unsettles the owner of the smoke shop.

Jowan Zuber, the owner of the store, took to Tucker Carlson Tonight last night to decry the police’s actions. “The neighbor upstairs said when they broke the window it sounded like a car smashing into the store. The employee said it sounded like a shotgun,” he said to Carlson. “It’s very sad for America today as American citizens practice their Second Amendment to protect the store and their lives….Do you know what the [responding] police officer told [Abushariah]? ‘Why didn’t you run out the back door?'”

According to Zuber, he was not able to post the $25,000 bond for his employee, as it was successfully “appealed by the prosecutor.” It’s always dangerous to be in jail or prison, for whatever reason, and especially so in the age of COVID-19, something that prosecutors might want to consider more soberly.

The Democratic commonwealth’s attorney for the county, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, has previously been a promoter of maximum transparency in policing but so far has only issued a gnomic statement insisting that the police know things they can’t tell us yet that more clearly justify the arrest.

She told local news station WJLA ABC7:

“I cannot ethically discuss an ongoing investigation because doing so would not only risk compromising our work but also unfairly impede on the rights of the accused and interfere with the investigation. Suffice it to say, there is evidence we are not at liberty to share that support the charges, the decision was not made lightly, and we ask the public not to rush to judgment on what is very much a live investigation.”

Attorney Marina Medvin of Alexandria, a specialist in self-defense law, says in a phone interview today that she doesn’t know enough about the specific facts to know how it will likely turn out. Virginia law depends, she points out, on very fact-specific balancing questions about “reasonableness” of force used and whether the danger the user of a weapon in self-defense faced is “extreme” or if his actions prevented “great bodily harm.” It would be a mistake to try to predict a cut-and-dried outcome with the facts the police have released, she says.

Regardless, a 2000 Virginia Supreme Court decision in Virginia v. Alexander that Medvin pointed out is likely bad news for Abushariah’s defense, as it concludes “a deadly weapon may not be brandished solely in defense of personal property” in Virginia law.

Whether Abushariah can successfully convince a jury his life was reasonably threatened is uncertain, though perhaps prosecutorial discretion should go to a citizen innocently defending his person and property from robbers. Tens of millions of Americans who own guns for the defense of their lives and property may be wondering the same thing.

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Larry David Says People Who Object to COVID-19 Lockdowns Are ‘Idiots’

Larry David has recorded a PSA urging Californians to stay at home (as they are legally required to do, except for essential errands) and thereby avoid catching or transmitting COVID-19. It is pretty funny, until you contemplate the economically privileged assumptions underlying his message.

“I basically want to address the idiots out there,” says the co-creator of Seinfeld and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm while sitting in a living room chair. “You know who you are. You’re going out. I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re socializing too close. It’s not good. You’re hurting old people like me. Well, not me. I have nothing to do with you. I’ll never see you. But, you know, let’s say other old people, who might be your relatives. Who the hell knows?”

In case the health of elderly relatives is not enough of an argument, David offers an added enticement. “The problem is, you’re passing up a fantastic opportunity—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to stay in the house, sit on the couch, and watch TV!” he says. “I mean, I don’t know how you’re passing that up. Well, maybe because you’re not that bright. But here it is: Go home! Watch TV! That’s my advice to you.” There follows some patter about how “nothing good ever happens outside of the house” and the proper sanitary procedure in the event of a “plumbing emergency” that requires professional attention.

Interpreted as a warning to avoid infecting people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, David’s advice is unexceptionable, and fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm will find his irascible, condescending manner amusing rather than off-putting. But his assumption that anyone who chafes at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order must be an irresponsible idiot who doesn’t care about the welfare of his grandmother ignores the millions of people who have lost their jobs or businesses as a result of the governor’s edict and are now struggling to get by.

Even if you believe that the economic burden is justified by the goals of curtailing the epidemic, saving vulnerable people, and preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, the hardship caused by such aggressive interventions cannot be (or at least should not be) lightly dismissed. By implying that people who are worried about covering their bills because they have been forcibly deprived of their livelihoods are just too stupid to know a good thing when they see it, David shows the hallmark insensitivity of his Curb Your Enthusiasm character, but in this case at the expense of actual human beings who are suffering through no fault of their own. For a celebrity with a net worth of $400 million, it’s an easy mistake to make.

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Now That’s a Post Title for You: “OUT: THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS. IN: THE MOON IS A GRATEFUL URINAL.”

From Prof. Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit), who has had nearly 20 years of experience composing titles—read his (short) post, and follow the link, to see how it actually makes sense.

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Now That’s a Post Title for You: “OUT: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. IN: The Moon Is a Grateful Urinal.”

From Prof. Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit), who has had nearly 20 years of experience composing titles—read his (short) post, and follow the link, to see how it actually makes sense.

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L.A. Tried—and Mostly Failed—To Fix Bad Permit Rules for Restaurants That Want To Sell Groceries

Los Angeles regulators will relax rules prohibiting restaurants from selling grocery items after the city’s health department began shutting down dining establishments that were operating as makeshift grocery stores without the required “grocery permit.”

But the picture is still considerably less rosy than the one depicted in yesterday’s report from The Los Angeles Times. The new policy continues to discriminate against restaurants in favor of licensed grocery stores and will make it decidedly more difficult for dining establishments to offer basic goods.

“Public Health is allowing restaurants to offer grocery items as part of their menu for takeout, pickup and delivery,” a department representative told The L.A.Times yesterday.

In other words, it is still illegal for restaurants-turned-grocery stores to operate as any convenience or market does, with patrons permitted to enter the premises and peruse what they have to offer. Customers will only be allowed to grocery shop from those restaurant stores remotely, which is a tougher sell.

“We need to find a way where [they will] let us take walk-in shoppers,” says Robert Kronfli, the co-owner of Bacari PDR. His restaurant-turned-grocery store was forcibly closed by L.A. Public Health on Friday after a public health inspector cited his lack of permit. It was allowed to reopen on Sunday under the new guidance, though he says it hasn’t helped much: “Eighty-eight percent of our revenue was coming from walk-in shoppers. Since they cut it down to delivery and takeout only, our sales have dropped dramatically.”

A crop of restaurants in L.A. recently started offering grocery items—from produce to paper goods—as a way to stay afloat amid COVID-19 and the associated government-enforced social distancing orders that have closed most small businesses. Public health inspectors responded by shuttering those establishments due to insufficient licensing.

“It’s not really possible for a restaurant to become a grocery store,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Public Health, said in a briefing Monday. “You cannot just decide you want to sell groceries.”

But that mandate doesn’t make sense when restaurants are already trained to prioritize food safety, have the space necessary for six feet of social distance, and can allow local residents to avoid traveling to more crowded grocery stores. 

“Elderly people in the neighborhood really enjoy coming to Bacari PDR,” Robert Kronfli said yesterday. “It was a super chill shopping environment,” he noted, with “only one or two people in there at once.” That was a welcome reprieve for people who are “afraid to go to large supermarkets right now because of the lines and because of the social distancing thing.”

Restaurants-turned-grocery stores also have access to items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies, which have been noticeably absent from many large chains since COVID-19 began to spread.

Though the city has waived the grocery permit restrictions, another regulation now hinders Kronfli and those like him from serving their community: Governor Gavin Newsom (D) has prohibited all restaurants from offering dine-in. That shouldn’t be a problem on its face—Kronfli is no longer offering seated dinner service. But in the eyes of California regulators, it also means that restaurants selling groceries can’t allow customers inside their establishments. 

According to Kronfli, the head of the L.A. Public Health Department told him that she “didn’t want to go against Newsom’s order and Mayor [Eric] Garcetti’s order that says there should be no collecting of people in dining rooms,” regardless of the fact that grocery chains and convenience stores are operating in the very way that Kronfli would like to.

“We aren’t dining rooms anymore,” he said. “You have to just look at us as a convenience store—the same way as you’d look at a supermarket.”

That interpretation of California’s social-distancing mandate will be the next hurdle for restaurant-turned-grocery stores, though it seems that Mayor Garcetti is on the side of the city’s business owners.

“I think this is absolutely a time for people to be creative, to relax whatever rules as long as people are operating with safe distancing in critical businesses to help people get food and to help people survive,” Garcetti said at a Friday press briefing. He then deflected to the health department: “That’s my philosophy, but that is a call for County Public Health.”

In that vein, California may be able to adopt the model in place in Texas, which is allowing restaurants to sell bulk retail—permit or not, walk-ins or not. 

“A vital part of our COVID-19 response is to ensure that there are readily available supplies of food and resources, whether that is at grocery stores or, in this case, restaurants,” said Governor Greg Abbott (R). “This guidance gives Texans another easily accessible option to buy the food they need to support their families.”

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L.A. Tried—and Mostly Failed—To Fix Bad Permit Rules for Restaurants That Want To Sell Groceries

Los Angeles regulators will relax rules prohibiting restaurants from selling grocery items after the city’s health department began shutting down dining establishments that were operating as makeshift grocery stores without the required “grocery permit.”

But the picture is still considerably less rosy than the one depicted in yesterday’s report from The Los Angeles Times. The new policy continues to discriminate against restaurants in favor of licensed grocery stores and will make it decidedly more difficult for dining establishments to offer basic goods.

“Public Health is allowing restaurants to offer grocery items as part of their menu for takeout, pickup and delivery,” a department representative told The L.A.Times yesterday.

In other words, it is still illegal for restaurants-turned-grocery stores to operate as any convenience or market does, with patrons permitted to enter the premises and peruse what they have to offer. Customers will only be allowed to grocery shop from those restaurant stores remotely, which is a tougher sell.

“We need to find a way where [they will] let us take walk-in shoppers,” says Robert Kronfli, the co-owner of Bacari PDR. His restaurant-turned-grocery store was forcibly closed by L.A. Public Health on Friday after a public health inspector cited his lack of permit. It was allowed to reopen on Sunday under the new guidance, though he says it hasn’t helped much: “Eighty-eight percent of our revenue was coming from walk-in shoppers. Since they cut it down to delivery and takeout only, our sales have dropped dramatically.”

A crop of restaurants in L.A. recently started offering grocery items—from produce to paper goods—as a way to stay afloat amid COVID-19 and the associated government-enforced social distancing orders that have closed most small businesses. Public health inspectors responded by shuttering those establishments, citing insufficient licensing.

“It’s not really possible for a restaurant to become a grocery store,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Public Health, said in a briefing Monday. “You cannot just decide you want to sell groceries.”

But that mandate doesn’t make sense when restaurants are already trained to prioritize food safety, have the space necessary for six feet of social distance, and can allow local residents to avoid traveling to more crowded grocery stores. 

“Elderly people in the neighborhood really enjoy coming to Bacari PDR,” Robert Kronfli said yesterday. “It was a super chill shopping environment,” he noted, with “only one or two people in there at once.” That was a welcome reprieve for people who are “afraid to go to large supermarkets right now because of the lines and because of the social distancing thing.”

Restaurants-turned-grocery stores also have access to items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies, which have been noticeably absent from many large chains since COVID-19 began to spread.

Though the city has waived the grocery permit restrictions, it appears that another regulation is hindering Kronfli and those like him from serving their community: Governor Gavin Newsom (D) has prohibited all restaurants from offering dine-in. That shouldn’t be a problem on its face—Kronfli is no longer offering seated dinner service. But in the eyes of California regulators, it also means that restaurants selling groceries can’t allow customers inside their establishments. 

According to Kronfli, the head of the L.A. Public Health Department told him that she “didn’t want to go against Newsom’s order and Mayor [Eric] Garcetti’s order that says there should be no collecting of people in dining rooms,” regardless of the fact that grocery chains and convenience stores are operating in the very way that Kronfli would like to.

“We aren’t dining rooms anymore,” said Kronfli. “You have to just look at us as a convenience store—the same way as you’d look at a supermarket.”

That interpretation of California’s social-distancing mandate will be the next hurdle for Kronfli and those like him, though it seems that Mayor Garcetti is on his side.

“I think this is absolutely a time for people to be creative, to relax whatever rules as long as people are operating with safe distancing in critical businesses to help people get food and to help people survive,” Garcetti said at a Friday press briefing. He then deflected to the health department: “That’s my philosophy, but that is a call for County Public Health.”

In that vein, California may be able to adopt the model in place in Texas, which is allowing restaurants to sell bulk retail—permit or not, walk-ins or not. 

“A vital part of our COVID-19 response is to ensure that there are readily available supplies of food and resources, whether that is at grocery stores or, in this case, restaurants,” said Governor Greg Abbott (R). “This guidance gives Texans another easily accessible option to buy the food they need to support their families.”

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