According to the California Restaurant Association, an estimated 30 percent of California’s restaurants are at risk of closing permanently

SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County Supervisors John Peschong, District One, and Debbie Arnold, District Five, signed a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom on Feb. 3.

The letter addressed official warnings from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) issued to local restaurants. 

During the week of Jan. 22, 2020, several businesses owners in San Luis Obispo County received a call from ABC warning that they will be enforcing restrictions made by the State Government during the stay at home order.

Enforcement from the ABC means a suspension of liquor licenses. Something owners who have these licenses cannot afford to lose. 

Arnold said, “It is salt in the wound–so many of them are struggling and trying to do the best they can and trying to meet all the protocols and still being visited.”

Rather than following through with a lawsuit against the California Governor or the State, Peschong and Arnold worked with Calwise Spirits Company owner, Aaron Bergh, to write a letter directly to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Peschong said of Bergh, “He has a lot of great insight into what’s going on in the small business communities. Certainly the distilleries, the wineries, the breweries and bars, and the restaurants. He’s very tuned in to the trials and tribulations that are going on in our community with the Alcoholic Beverage Control and these different small businesses.” 

When supervisors reached out and asked what they could do to help, it made Bergh and other business owners feel heard. 

“It made me feel very fortunate that I chose this county to live in and run my business in,” said Bergh.

Peschong, Arnold, and Bergh hoped the letter would have some meaning and receive some recognition from the Governor. 

“I’d like to see the state entrust our county government to do what’s best for their community and do what’s for their businesses and their residents,” said Bergh.

According to Peschong, the county has sent several letters to the Governor, all still waiting for a response. 

As County Supervisors Peschong and Arnold are concerned, our county could lose their small businesses, and once they are gone, we won’t get them back. The supervisors addressed this concept with supporting data in their letter:

“According to the California Restaurant Association, an estimated 30 percent of California’s restaurants are at risk of closing permanently. Yelp data shows that 60 percent of businesses that were required to shut down are closing permanently. To take administrative action against licensees now will only further damage the industry and destroy the jobs of 1.4 million Californians.”

“A lot of our small businesses and restaurants have spent a lot of money to comply, and then suddenly the game changes, and we’re doing it a different way. And those are the kinds of things that our smaller businesses cannot sustain that kind of thing,” said Arnold.

Also addressed in the letter is the lack of evidence that restaurants are super-spreaders of the COVID-19 virus.

In the letter, supervisors asked for scientific evidence to be publicly available and applied consistently. 

This statement address comments Governor Newsom made at a press conference on Jan. 25, in response to why he was withholding data to support his closing and reopening of the state.

“If we’re taking away people’s livelihoods in the name of the pandemic, which is very scary and people have died, it should be publicly available scientific evidence,” said Peschong.

When asked what happens if the county never receives an acknowledgment from the Governor, Peschong says, “I’ll keep sending him letters and encouraging the community to reach out to his office.”

Supervisors Peschong and Arnold hope their letter enlightens the Governor to withhold using ABC to target businesses trying to do their best during unprecedented times and encourages him to release COVID-19 related data that is currently withheld from the public.