Reverse the Ban on Outdoor Dining in Marin

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To Dr. Willis, Marin County Board of Supervisors &CA Dept. of Public Health et al,

My name is Dustin Sullivan. I own a restaurant in Kentfield called Guesthouse. I am writing to you on behalf of my restaurant as well as all of the fellow restaurateurs, managers, employees and customers who have signed this petition.

More than anything, I am writing to you on behalf of the employees who work for us; the employees who power our economy. Employees whose children are going hungry during the holidays, many of whom will likely get evicted from their homes once federal eviction moratoriums are lifted. Employees that I am personally purchasing groceries for out of my own pocket. Employees for whom I am their only lifeline.

We are begging you to reconsider your stance on outdoor dining in Marin. Families are going hungry while 1,200 people are in Costco. Families are going hungry while 900 people are in Home Depot. Families are going hungry while large corporations worth billions of dollars are doing record revenue.

As doctors and public health officials, you wisely follow the data. From the then-peak of COVID cases in Marin in mid-July until late November, average daily case counts dropped. All the while, outdoor dining provided a lifeline for our survival. But as case counts have reached frightening levels in Marin in December, outdoor dining has been shut down for the vast majority of the month. There's a clear disconnect here. Case counts continue to spike while outdoor dining is shut down, and no scientific or government agency has yet to produce data that indicates that outdoor dining is a potent contributor to the spread of coronavirus.

In fact, I would argue (as I’m sure many of you have considered) that restricting outdoor dining likely leads to more cases. Eliminating a safe, monitored, outdoor gathering spot forces people indoors and likely leads to more transmission, more illness, and more death.

We're not arguing that the virus isn't real and dangerous. We don’t fault your caution. But we do ask you to consider the damage being done to people who depend on restaurants for their livelihood. The damage is real and in many cases irreversible. People’s children are going hungry and losing everything because of restricted outdoor dining. A full-service restaurant cannot survive on to-go food. A full-service restaurant cannot employ a staff on to-go food. Believe me, if I thought that outdoor dining was dangerous, I’d be the first person to shut it down, but I simply cannot find the evidence that indicates such.

Today I (and the many undersigned), are begging you to consider a balanced and common-sense approach to outdoor dining in Marin County. Outdoor dining will allow hundreds of restaurants to employ staff, to pay some of their bills, and to hopefully survive through this. Outdoor dining will give me a fighting chance to keep my job and to feed my 2 children. And it will give my employees a chance to feed their children as well. We are the people who serve as the backbone of our communities, sponsoring little league teams and bolstering school budgets. We obviously want our communities healthy and happy.

Please don’t forget about us!