California ABC Shuts Down Morgan Hill Restaurants

Some Morgan Hill restaurant owners were surprised and confused by the sudden appearance in town Friday night of state officers who said they were there to enforce the governor’s COVID-19 regulations.

Officers from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) visited numerous restaurants the night of July 3, according to city officials and restaurant owners. The officers entered the restaurants and told staff or owners that they were enforcing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 order, which the officers said prohibited outdoor dining in Santa Clara County.

But those targeted by the enforcement and local legal authorities—including Morgan Hill’s city attorney and county public health officer—have said the governor’s order states the opposite of what the ABC officers claimed.

Mark Turner, CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants in the City of Gilroy were also shut down or threatened with shutdown by the ABC officers.

Dan McCranie, owner of Ladera Grill, said at a July 4 press conference that his restaurant was among those targeted by two ABC officers the night of July 3. McCranie said the officers entered the restaurant about 8:30pm and told his manager that Ladera Grill must shut down operations because they were in violation of state orders regarding outdoor dining. The manager was threatened with citations for restaurant staff, the owner and even customers if they reopened at a later date, McCranie said.

But McCranie said Ladera Grill is in compliance with all state and county regulations on business and public gatherings under COVID-19. He said the restaurant will remain open as planned for outdoor dining and takeout orders until he sees a directive specifically prohibiting such business.

“This is a combination of outrageous, unprofessional and, I think, mendacious,” McCranie said of the ABC officers’ actions. He noted that the restaurant has been open for outdoor dining the entire month of June, in accordance with county and state public health guidelines.

Ladera Grill Manager Chris Provini added that the officers said they could have cited the restaurant and customers immediately the night of July 3, but decided “out of generosity” to delay such enforcement.

The ABC office did not return a phone call requesting comment.

Mayor Rich Constantine, City Manager Christina Turner and City Attorney Don Larkin also spoke at the July 4 press conference outside Ladera Grill. The city officials said they were as surprised by the ABC officers’ visit to town as the restaurant owners were. They said they have been on the line with state and county officials to gain some clarification as soon as possible on whether the state is allowing outdoor dining in South Santa Clara County.

Constantine said while it is “customary” for an outside law enforcement agency to notify local police when entering a jurisdiction for enforcement, ABC did not contact Morgan Hill Police. Constantine said he spoke to Sheriff Laurie Smith, who said she did not have advance knowledge of the ABC visit.

“We were all caught off guard,” Constantine said. “We understand that COVID-19 is a very dangerous virus, and we as a city have been in compliance, as well as our businesses.”

City Manager Christina Turner added that city staff have been working closely with downtown restaurants since the pandemic started. “We have been helping them meet all the protocols” for outdoor dining, social distancing and hygiene, Turner said.

Restaurants in Gilroy were also “approached and told to close” by ABC officers the night of July 3, said Gilroy Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Turner. He added that one of the restaurants’ staff was told that if they reopen, they would be subject to criminal citation.

“We feel this is harassment of South County businesses,” Mark Turner said. “Businesses are suffering as it is, and they’re in compliance with the governor’s orders. We are totally outraged by this incident.”

Morgan Hill Police Chief Shane Palsgrove confirmed July 4 that ABC did not notify MHPD that they would be in town. He has since spoken to an ABC district supervisor, who said the ABC office received its orders to conduct the July 3 enforcement too late to notify the local police. The ABC supervisor also said it was acting on the belief that Santa Clara County does not have the state’s approval to allow outdoor dining at restaurants.

Palsgrove added that it appears restaurants that hold an alcohol license from the ABC were the ones contacted July 3.

Morgan Hill City Attorney noted that the ABC officers the night of July 3 showed restaurant managers a printed copy of the governor’s July 1 COVID-19 order. This document, Larkin noted, specifies that businesses may continue outdoor operations as long as social distancing is enforced.

Earlier this week, Newsom placed Santa Clara County on a “watch list” of 19 counties with surging coronavirus cases that might be required to roll back recent business reopening. The document that ABC officers presented to local restaurant staff July 3 refers to this list of counties. It states that ABC-licensed businesses must discontinue outdoor operations unless they are operating a restaurant on site.

McCranie said July 4 that more than 80 percent of Ladera Grill’s sales come from food, as opposed to alcohol. City officials said other Morgan Hill restaurants that offer outdoor dining have also been in compliance with the outdoor operations provision.

On July 1, Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said Santa Clara County was still not allowing any of the riskier activities cited by Newsom—such as indoor dining and movie theaters—that might have to shut down.

The county public health office said in a statement that they were not notified in advance of the July 3 ABC operation in South County. “The county urges everyone to continue to follow local and state health orders, and to avoid social gatherings and fireworks to prevent injuries and illness this Fourth of July weekend,” said county staff.

27 Comments

  1. This was an economic hit job orchestrated by your friendly San Jose insiders, Sam Liccardo, David Sykes, Kim Walesh, and Scott Knies, who are probably cackling their butts off right now while reading this article.

    Way to teach those uppity small business owners what happens when you don’t pay your dues to the SVO! This may turn into yet another lawsuit against San Jose.

    The City of Milpitas stands in solidarity with other cities who have been bullied by their big-city neighbor. They are getting a taste of what we have known for years.

    • You’re confused: OUTDOOR DINING, with proper social distancing, health protocols in place. There have been NO rollback on such activities. Bars, both indoor/out, serving alcohol only..yes. Outdoor dining serving meals, no. You’re welcome.

      • What we need is to find an owner who opens up his restaurant having normal dining inside. Every day the government comes in shutting him down then he keeps it open.

        Shutdown is over.

        Owner becomes a national hero. No jury of 12 is going to convict someone trying to make an honest living.

        • It isn’t about a jury convicting. It’s about the alcohol license. Running a restaurant is hard enough and no owner can afford to give up that additional source of revenue. Newsom can’t run local police or sheriffs, but he can run ABC “strike teams” to enforce his random dictates.

          • Take your chances. Keep your restaurant going and serve alcohol even if ABC takes your license away. Clearly that is a decision that only an owner can make but you still go need to go through a jury trial.

            Good luck in finding 12 jurors saying you can’t make an honest living.

  2. If there is no outdoor dining allowed in Santa Clara County… what is going on with San Jose Al Fresco? Is San Jose allowed to host outdoor dining, or are they about to potentially face the same enforcement that MH is experiencing?

  3. > California ABC Shuts Down Morgan Hill Restaurants

    Just “good government” doing it’s job “to keep the people safe”.

    I feel safer now.

    Thank you, Governor Newsom! Thank you Board of Supervisors! Thank you ABC! And THANK YOU Sara Cody!

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

    If it hadn’t been for good government, I might have had a dangerous burger and fries in Morgan Hill.

  4. Everyone needs to hunker down. We can beat covid. We must focus, even businesses, lets all let this plague pass. We’ll get back to business soon.

    • You will not go back to business soon under these kinds of rules. No vaccines until 2021. And vaccines may or may not work anyway. Wouldn’t it be better to selectively quarantine the vulnerable (elderly, those with relevant comorbidities like diabetes, etc.)? And wouldn’t it be better to accept that there might be casualties, but as long as hospitals have capacity, the rest of life should not stop? Otherwise, not much can proceed — noone should ever get in a car, noone should ever fly, noone should eat bacon.

        • People Die.

          Get over it.

          The virus is taking out old and unhealthy people that were meant to die. Tough Luck. Old and unhealthy people tend to die.

      • And CALMHERDOWN IS RECITING TRUMP’S PROPAGANDA! I just hope you are not honoring Trump’s “grab them by the pussies…”

        • I am not a Trump supporter, not an advocate of seniors dying, not in favor of threats against Sara Cody, or any of that. But if you value human life, Fexxnist, you should value the ability to live life. Not just here, but globally. The LA Times, not exactly a right wing paper, recently had an article on how covid 19 shutdown is contributing to child labor in Pakistan. In your zeal to control the pandemic through total shutdown, don’t forget that real people’s lives and well being are at stake.

    • If I was in business then I am opening it up NOW. You don’t like it that’s YOUR problem.

  5. The County never got approval for outdoor dining. FIRE COUNTY EXECUTIVE JEFF SMITH already.

  6. It’s turned into a political problem, not a pandemic. All of our politicians need to be voted out for their incredibly bad handling of this. Start with recalling Gavin for unleashing the power of the state on people trying to do the right thing and still make a living.

    • Newsom has been doing a great job handling this whole mess, unless you literally don’t care about how many people die from this virus and just want restaurants to open.

      • That’s just a STUPID thing to say. You are wrong, get over yourself and stop attacking people with different views.

        “Open your mind!”
        “Co-Exist!”

        • Yes, what I said was stupid, what you said about people “trying to do the right thing” by creating conditions for the spread of a communicable disease was very smart.

          I’m sorry you feel “attacked,” but if you’re more concerned with government overreach in regard to social distancing than trying to stop the disease itself, you’re part of the “political problem” that is perpetuating this crisis.

          • First off, social distancing is stupid and those that propose it just end up exposing themselves.
            Secondly, if you read the story, you would see that the restaurants were practicing social distancing with the proper PPE and protocols approved by the City. So how do YOU figure they were “creating conditions for the spread of a communicable disease”?

          • > First off, social distancing is stupid

            Seems like trying to convince you to care about the link between actions and the consequences is a fool’s errand if you think trying to limit the spread of a disease is stupid.

          • Now you’ve done it. You’ve gone and exposed yourself.
            Social Distancing is Stupid because there is Zero evidence to suggest it is effective.
            Why not 5ft. or 7 ft. or 2 ft? Who decided 6ft. was effective and why? Where is the evidence? Where is the Science?

            Seems like trying to convince you to think for yourself is a fools errand if you believe everything some government official tells you is true and factual just because they are in government.

  7. > Social Distancing is Stupid because there is Zero evidence to suggest it is effective.
    Why not 5ft. or 7 ft. or 2 ft? Who decided 6ft. was effective and why? Where is the evidence? Where is the Science?

    I’m on record for advocating that Social Distancing should be twenty-five feet.

    That would definitely save lives. It’s based on science.

    Are you against saving lives?

    Those who accept Social Distancing of six feet want people to die.

  8. This is another one of many governmental agencies that need to be shut down.

    These agencies, their parasitic employees, and politicians are so arrogant now, but in a short time they will soon be out of their cush, fake jobs as the people are becoming aware of the waste, incompetence, and corruption- . one thing good coming from the Coronavirus….

  9. PUBLIC SERVANT QUALIFIED IMMUNITY protection needs to be removed from all public servant jobs, from police to politicians. Then these incompetent and corrupt parasites could be sued for their fat paychecks and retirements efor their bad decisions.

    Once the tax roll reality sets in, so many of these obscure, worthless agencies will be shuttered.