Small Business Advisory

Navigating Coronavirus Laws
Coronavirus and Beyond: Small Business Legal Advising

In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, this year has witnessed other major shifts in employment law. We at Margolin Lawrence are here to advise you on the ever-changing landscape of employment vs. independent contractor designation, up-to-date information on what you need to apply for in terms of state federal and local grants, and provide you access and referrals to accountants to assist with making sure you are up to date on the filings and documents you need to get what you need from different government entities. We are happy to advise on eligibility for such loans as Economic Disaster Loan, PPP loans, and any other part of the federal stimulus package. We are also available to advise on and help small businesses apply for private industry-specific grants and loans.

Health and Safety Guidance and Compliance

Starting April 10, 2020, Mayor Eric Garcetti will begin enforcing an order requiring all essential businesses, their employees, customers, and wholesalers, to wear masks. A copy of the order can be found here. Cities and counties through California have placed similar orders, and we are here to keep you up-to-date on what this means for essential business and answer questions like do you have to provide this gear, for how long, and what the rules are.

Essential businesses are generally defined by the state, but the governor has left several categories such as gun stores, up to the discretion of the counties and cities. When one discusses the action a county is taking in California, they are referring to the unincorporated areas of the county. A board of supervisors generally oversees the law of the unincorporated parts of a county. The City refers to the particular city within the county. For example, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors make decisions for the unincorporated parts of LA County, whereas Mayor Garcetti and the LA City Council only govern the City of Los Angeles. Los Angeles is one of 88 cities in LA County. Each city makes its own rules through its city council and mayor.

Essential Businesses

On March 19, Governor Newsom ordered all businesses close except those deemed essential services. Essential services include those who support the following industries, as well as the retailers of the following:

  • Pharmacies and cannabis dispensaries
  • Food: Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, takeout and delivery restaurants
  • Banks
  • Gas stations
  • Laundromats/laundry services
  • Essential state and local government functions including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services.

The order went into effect on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The order is in place until further notice. It covers the whole state of California, and it exempts activity as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government services, schools, childcare, and construction, including housing construction. The essential services include the following industries: healthcare/public health, emergency services, law enforcement, public safety, and first responders, public works such as plumbers, electricians, and exterminators, food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation and logistics, communications and information technology

However, essential services are defined on a state and local level at this time, as the orders are individual state orders, not federal ones.

Though many businesses are closed due to stay-at-home-orders, millions of workers within the state and country fall within categories defined as essential and therefore are subject to emergency guidelines which now apply to the way they conduct their jobs.

Margolin & Lawrence can provide insight and a legal roadmap for those industries to comply with guidelines the state and cities are imposing during coronavirus, and after. Failure to do so can lead to health and safety violations, criminal penalties, strikes and lawsuits, and challenge a business’s survival.

Since the Governor issued the stay-at-home order just a few weeks, ago, he has issued several more orders that pertain to essential business operation and functioning.

Restaurant, Bar, Winery, and Brewery Advising
Guidance for ABC Licenses:

In response to a request by Governor Newsom for restaurant, bar, wineries, and breweries to contribute to curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, California’s Department of Public Health, California Department of Public Health issued guidance to ABC licensees on March 16.

In summary, this guidance indicates that some ABC licensees should close to the public and others should take various measures to reduce the risks of the virus being transmitted between customers and employees.

The following is available at

Specific Guidance to ABC Licensees

The Department provides the following information to ABC licensed businesses in light of the guidance from Public Health:

  1. The guidance does not pertain to the exercise of non-retail privileges (e.g., manufacturing, importing, storing, distributing).
  2. The guidance does not pertain to the exercise of off-sale retail privileges (e.g., liquor stores, on-sale premises with off-sale privileges, manufacturers with off-sale privileges, etc.). That said, all licensees should endeavor to minimize customers congregating within licensed premises, such as at check-outs and counters, in order to provide appropriate social distancing.
  3. For any licensee with on-sale retail privileges, the guidance indicates you should cease exercising those privileges immediately.  Further, you should follow the directive from Public Health to cease on-restaurant seated dining.
  4. For those licensees permitted to sell food and alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises (including on-sale licenses with off-sale privileges), you should follow the specific guidance from State and local health officials.  Some of that guidance is accessible through the following links:
  5. For those licensees who suspend their retail privileges by following Public Health’s guidance, the Department will not be considering any licensee to be in violation of the terms of its license for failing to exercise retail privileges for 15 days or longer.  Ordinarily the Department would require a Rule 65 surrender, but we are not doing so until further notice.
  6. Local jurisdictions may provide more strict guidelines and requirements. All licensees should adhere to local government directives.

We have received requests for guidance on many other issues, and we will be issuing that guidance as it is developed in this rapidly-evolving situation.

The Department appreciates the challenges these measures place on licensed businesses, but we are also confident that as Californians we can all work together to get through this difficult time. If you have any questions, please contact your local Department office. The Department is committed to working with all of you to keep us all safe and address the challenges we face.

For more information on COVID-19 and the industry, read the California Department of Public Health guidance for retail food, beverage and other related service venues.

Allison is one of the leading attorneys in medical cannabis law, and has been practicing for over a decade. She has represented clients in the medical marijuana business since 2006, and has been featured in numerous publications including The LA Times, LA Weekly, The New Yorker, and Hustler magazine as an expert in the field.

An active member of NORML, Allison helps her business clients navigate state, local, and federal law in a dynamic legal landscape. In addition to her regulatory practice, she has also successfully defended some of the highest profile criminal cases in California, and maintains a broad and active practice in both State and Federal Courts. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Allison has been named a SuperLawyer Rising Star 7+ times, including most recently in 2017.

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