What the state’s COVID-19 curfew means for Santa Clara County
Restaurants and other nonessential businesses will have to close by 10 p.m. under the curfew. Photo by Carly Wipf.

    Despite a state-ordered curfew to curb COVID-19 spread starting this weekend, restaurants in Santa Clara County can stay open for takeout and people can still go out for walks.

    The only condition? Avoid contact with people from other households.

    When the overnight curfew ordered by the state starts at 10 p.m. on Nov. 21, it will be up to local police departments to make sure it’s enforced.

    But unlike the last curfew in San Jose, enacted by the city during protests over the police killing of George Floyd in May, police say this time their response will be different.

    “We had no prior knowledge that the state would be imposing a curfew,” said Officer Steve Aponte, an SJPD spokesman. “We will not be utilizing this curfew as probable cause to detain persons during the curfew hours.”

    In the face of spiking COVID-19 cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this week that 41 counties in California will impose an overnight curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Nov. 21 until Dec. 21. Those counties, including Santa Clara County, are in the state’s purple tier, which is the most restrictive when it comes to reopening.

    Under the curfew, restaurants in those counties must close outdoor dining from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., but can remain open for takeout.

    Non-essential gatherings and businesses, such as general retail stores, movie theaters, gyms and bars cannot operate after 10 p.m. Many closures, such as outdoor bars and indoor dining, already went into effect when the county regressed to the purple tier on Nov. 17.

    However, the closures under the curfew also includes drive-in movie theaters such as West Wind Capitol Drive-in, despite it being allowed in the purple tier, according to a county spokesperson.

    West Wind Capitol Drive-in representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

    Businesses that are deemed essential, such as grocery stores, food suppliers and manufacturing industries for critical infrastructure, can remain open past 10 p.m.

    People can still go grocery shopping or walk their dogs past 10 p.m., said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human services secretary.

    When it comes to enforcement, Aponte said San Jose police will focus on education, rather than citations.

    A Santa Clara County spokesperson said each city’s police department will decide how to enforce the curfew.

    Sgt. Michael Low, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, said “the curfew will be another tool deputies can use to enforce the law” but deputies will focus on more serious crimes in the community.

    Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, said the curfew will have a limited effect on many downtown businesses because most restaurants close before 10 p.m.

    But for those that remain open until midnight, he said it’s another restriction they must face during the pandemic.

    “We had just made the adjustments with the City Council to have our Al Fresco restaurants do service until midnight,” Knies said. “(It’s) just another brick in the wall for businesses having to operate to defeat this spiral that we’re in.”

    Some restaurant owners who serve people outdoors after 10 p.m. said the curfew would hurt, but understood the rationale.

    “From a business owner’s perspective, it’s just another challenge that’s going to hurt us,” said Randy Musterer, CEO of Sushi Confidential in San Jose and Campbell. “A lot of people do like to go out a little bit later in the evening, grab a bite and socialize.”

    However, he said people are more likely to drink rather than eat in later hours, which is why he thinks the state ordered a curfew.

    Cheesecake Factory Manager Ravi Medheker said the curfew won’t necessarily stop gathering where COVID-19 might spread.

    “I feel if they are not taking other necessary steps in closing other businesses during the daytime,” Medheker said. “It’s just pushing people to end what they’re doing earlier but not necessarily stopping social gatherings.”

    Reporters Lorraine Gabbert, Grace Stetson and Lloyd Alaban contributed to this article

    Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

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