‘Just do it’: Assemblyman encourages restaurants to open indoors due to smoke

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(KTXL) — The assemblymember representing six Northern California counties is encouraging restaurants to open for indoor dining to help fire victims escape the smoke. 

Although his suggestion runs afoul of state health rules, Assemblyman James Gallagher said, “ … Just do it.”

Fire-ravaged Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties are all in Gallagher’s district, which he toured Friday. 

“People have been evacuated, many of them are trying to figure out their next steps,” Gallagher told FOX40. 

His encouragement to restaurant’s to violate state orders came in a Wednesday post to his Facebook page, saying not to worry about health rules. 

Gallagher said he was thinking about evacuees who aren’t being housed in large shelters and don’t have access to food due to pandemic restrictions. 

“It’s safer for them to be indoors, spaced out, than to be outdoors in the choking smoke and ash,” Gallagher said. 

In fact, the Butte County Public Health shortly after granted a waiver for restaurants allowing them to operate indoor with safety precautions. 

Gallagher’s post got over 7,000 views, most of them positive.

But it was the waiver from Butte County that caught the attention of state officials. 

“We’re hearing now that the state has come down on them and said, ‘No, you can’t grant any such waiver,’” Gallagher explained. 

He also has an earlier video post in which he asks constituents to follow health protocols. 

But now Butte County has a different guideline than the state.

The Board of Supervisors in Placer County took the step of rescinding its emergency health declaration, causing its public health officer to resign. While still under state rules, Placer County won’t be enforcing violations. 

A few weeks ago, the board and cities in the county formally asked the governor to reopen failing businesses to save jobs. 

“This is really to make sure that our workers can get back to work and that our businesses can survive,” said Placer County Supervisor Bonnie Gore. 

Likewise, Gallagher said he’s voicing the frustration of his rural constituents who complain about being lumped in with larger counties with bigger pandemic numbers and a different standard for hair salons and retail stores, especially in light of another health emergency. 

“Nobody is saying open normal, open with safety protocols. Restaurants should be able to do the same thing but there’s no flexibility,” Gallagher said. 

There is no indication if Butte County will back of its indoor dining waiver or whether state rules will be enforced during the fire emergency. 

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