Ventura County to sue 18 businesses for operating indoors

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Ventura County is in the process of filing lawsuits against 18 businesses — 14 gyms and four restaurants — for operating indoors in violation of Coronavirus-related public health orders. [VC Star]

On Jan. 5, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to direct county attorneys to sue House of Gains in Port Hueneme, Colosseum Bootcamp in Oxnard, two Ventura locations of Anytime Fitness, The Pizza Cookery in Thousand Oaks and one location each of Fitness 19 in Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley. Ventura County filed suits against those businesses on Jan. 8.

Then last Tuesday, the board of supervisor voted 4-1 to sue Allison’s Country Cafe in Ventura, Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut in Oxnard, Good Morning Cafe in Camarillo, Gold’s Gym in Thousand Oaks, the Oxnard and Camarillo locations of Fitness 19 and four locations of Anytime Fitness — two in the Conejo Valley and one each in Camarillo and Simi Valley. Attorneys have yet to complete the complaints against those businesses, but once they do so, the lawsuits will be filed in Ventura County Superior Court. 

Supervisor Bob Huber cast the dissenting votes against the lawsuits.

In each case, Ventura County is seeking the court to issue a temporary restraining order against the business and ultimately a permanent injunction barring operations. Officials have already temporarily suspended, and could potentially revoke, the health permits for the four restaurants the county is suing.

A few of the business owners involved in the litigation said they are ready to fight for their livelihood and to stand against government overreach. 

Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy, an attorney representing the owner of Colosseum Bootcamp in Oxnard, said there are several constitutional arguments against the orders barring indoor operations, including the so-called takings clause under the Fifth Amendment. The government cannot take property without compensating the owner for it, Baldwin-Kennedy argued. Businesses are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and are being forced to close without any government support, the attorney said. 

Acting Ventura County Counsel Michael Walker, however, said constitutional arguments do not apply when there is a public safety regulation. Walker also said there is no argument supported by law requiring the government to make a direct showing between an outbreak and a business. 

Ventura County officials also say most local restaurants are complying with coronavirus rules.

Along with San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, Ventura County has tried to break away from the Southern California region, which is currently under a stay-at-home order, and form a new Central Coast region. Efforts to form the Central Coast region have thus far been unsuccessful.

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