Fresno city and county leaders ask Gov. Newsom to allow restaurants to reopen indoor dining

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Working with the local restaurant industry, they assure the state proper COVID-19 safety protocols would still be enforced

FRESNO, California (KSEE) — The “wholesale destruction of the restaurant industry” is only weeks away unless Gov. Gavin Newsom green lights indoor dining, according to a letter sent to him by Fresno Mayor Lee Brand and Chair of Fresno County Board of Supervisors Buddy Mendes.

Fresno County health officials reported the county is close to meeting the metrics to move up to the red tier, which would allow restaurants to allow indoor dining at 25% capacity. But restauranteur and California Restaurant Association Fresno chapter president Chuck Van Fleet says that is not enough.

“25%, we’re just throwing money away. Right now, all we’re doing to trying to stop the bleeding. We’re losing money every week, most of us are, it just depends on how much,” he said.

Mayor Lee Brand said he hopes Gov. Newsom will respond to this letter by next week.

Van Fleet, along with the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, worked with several Fresno elected leaders and Fresno County Board of Supervisors chairman Buddy Mendes to write the letter. It asks Gov. Newsom to allow indoor dining at a higher capacity than the state’s tier system allows, while following COVID-19 guidance such as social distancing.

Fresno City Council approved a resolution echoing the letter Thursday morning in a 6-1 vote, with Garry Bredefeld casting the sole no vote.

Mayor Lee Brand said the city and county will also work more closely to pinpoint where COVID-19 is spreading — to hopefully show indoor dining is fine.

“Show me the data that make it where these restaurants are making the problem,” Brand said. “I don’t see the data there to justify the banning of indoor dining, or restricting it.”

Fresno city councilmembers Luis Chavez and Mike Karbassi worked with Brand on the city side of this effort. Chavez said he feels business owner’s pain, but he stresses the need to reopen in a safe way.

“We know the more precautions we take, the sooner we can come out of this and the sooner we can all get back to being normal — a different version of what normal would be,” Chavez said.

The four resolutions Bredefeld pushed for Wednesday — which would have allowed businesses to reopen and defy state COVID-19 restrictions, even have the city sue the state — were pulled from the agenda in a 5-2 vote at the beginning of Thursday’s city council meeting.

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