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Newsom says he should not have attended French Laundry dinner party

Newsom says he should not have attended French Laundry dinner party

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SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he should not have attended a birthday dinner for a dozen people at the posh French Laundry restaurant last week, saying that he should have set a better example for a virus-fatigued state that is seeing steep increases in coronavirus cases.

Newsom, who has pleaded with residents to avoid social gatherings that mix households, said in a statement Friday that “while our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday of the Nov. 6 dinner to celebrate the 50th birthday of Newsom’s longtime friend and political adviser Jason Kinney. The outdoor dinner at The French Laundry in Yountville in Napa County brought together 12 people, including the governor and his wife.

State guidelines limit gatherings, defined as “social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,” to no more than three households. It’s unclear if the rule applies to restaurants, however, which follow different guidance.

The California Republican Party said in a tweet that the governor “seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth.“

Molly Weedn, a representative for Kinney, said all party guests followed safety protocols and declined to comment on why the celebration brought together more than three households.

“This was a small, intimate, 12-person dinner held outdoors with family and a few close friends to celebrate a 50th birthday,” Weedn said in a statement to the Chronicle.

It was not immediately clear what Newsom ate and how much he spent at The French Laundry, which offers a variety of extremely pricey menus.

The 3-star Michelin restaurant has maintained its $350 per person tasting menu, served in an outdoor dining room during the pandemic. It also added a number of other options, including a $450 per person menu for parties of up to 12 people, that can be served indoors or outside, and another for $850. The restaurant requires all reservations to be paid in advance.

Nathan Click, a spokesman for the Democratic governor, said the couple paid for their own meals.

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A model calculates a 12% chance that a guest at a small dinner party in Napa Valley is infected with the virus. Whether indoors or outdoors, dining in a restaurant is “amongst the riskiest things we do for COVID,” a UC San Francisco health expert said.

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