By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A group of 11 California state senators, both Democrat and Republican, are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to let restaurants reopen by moving them into the “essential” category statewide, despite the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We ask that you immediately reclassify the restaurant industry as critical infrastructure before more damage is done,” the letter says. “As it is becoming obvious to Californians, these essential businesses do more than simply provide a place to eat. Restaurants are active participants in local neighborhoods, providing meals to senior citizens and working with food banks to feed families struggling to put food on their tables.”

The petitioners submitted their letter Friday. The signers were Sens. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, and Scott Wilk, R-Lancaster, along with Sens. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno, Brian Dahle, R- Redding, Shannon Grove, R-Yucca Valley, Melissa Hurtado, D-Hanford, Brian Jones, R-El Cajon, and Jim Nielsen, R-Roseville; Sen.-elect Rosilicie Bogh, R- Rancho Cucamonga, and Assemblywoman Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara.

The petitioners pointed out that in 2019, 1.8 million jobs statewide were tied to the restaurant and foodservice industry.

“We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to reclassify restaurants as essential businesses and adopt the industry’s protocols that would allow restaurants to operate safely,” the letter reads. “The future of thousands of restaurants, their employees and the unique character of our local communities are dependent on the survival of this industry.”

Roughly 60 percent of eateries are owned by people of color, and 50 percent are owned or partially owned by women, according to the lawmakers’ letter.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The current closures are connected to Newsom’s limited stay-at-home order issued on November 19, as well as the broader regional order he signed on December 3, citing rapidly escalating coronavirus infection rates.

“The bottom line is, if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” he said. “If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see the death rate climb, more lives lost.”

The California Restaurant Association last week prevailed in a case against Los Angeles County related to public health-mandated restaurant closures earlier this year. However, the industry has not filed suit challenging the governor’s decree.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)