“I could lose everything, and I don’t have any recourse.” — Daryn Coleman, PLF Client
Gov. Newsom’s one-man rule haunts small businesses and livelihoods
PLF challenges California’s unilateral, irrational color-coded COVID shutdowns
Daryn Coleman had big plans for 2020. He had already added arcade games and a shooting gallery to Ghost Golf, his popular haunted mini-golf attraction in Fresno. Next up would be a zombie apocalypse-themed escape room.
Instead, Daryn is trying to escape a real-life apocalypse of irrational pandemic-related rules that threaten his business and his family’s livelihood.
Ghost Golf first opened in Concord, California, in 2010. The indoor, haunted graveyard-themed mini-golf course brought together Daryn’s love of animatronics, his yearning to bring joy to others, and retirement money saved from the many years he worked in the telecommunications industry.
Eight years later, Daryn and his wife, Janice, moved their children and the business to Fresno, where they’ve grown Ghost Golf into a full family entertainment center—and the Colemans’ primary source of income.
“It’s been challenging, and fun, and heart-breaking getting a business up and running—sometimes all at the same time,” Daryn reflects with pride. “I built this whole place by myself with my own hands, but my wife and daughters work with me. The ultimate goal is to hand down Ghost Golf to my kids.”
Right now, however, Daryn just hopes he can keep Ghost Golf, period, after Governor Gavin Newsom’s statewide COVID-related orders have kept the business shut down since last March.
At first, Daryn took the governor’s shutdown order in stride. He used the initial downtime to adjust his own business practices to align with new safety protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We eliminated as much contact and touch points between staff and customers as we could,” he says. “We established 25 percent capacity. We put at least two holes between each group of people. We spaced arcade games six feet apart. We now use a phone app rather than scoring cards. We put hand sanitizer everywhere.”
The state finally allowed Ghost Golf to reopen in June, only to reverse course four days later under Newsom’s second round of business shutdowns. Then in August, the governor announced a new “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” a complex, county-by-county color-coded regulatory scheme with rules for all sectors of the economy.
The color-coded scheme was more of a guessing game, as most Fresno County businesses were allowed to reopen with restrictions, while indoor family entertainment centers like Ghost Golf must remain closed—regardless of the Colemans’ health and safety overhaul.
Ghost Golf loses tens of thousands of dollars each month it remains closed. Despite no income since March, Daryn must still pay rent and other business expenses while he obeys the governor’s latest shutdown scheme.
“I’ve said from the very beginning, close it all or open it all. If it’s safe to do anything indoors, it’s safe to do everything indoors,” says Daryn. “Why is it safe to go shopping at a Walmart, or Target, or Sam’s Club, but not to play miniature golf? Restaurants can still operate with curbside pickup, but I have no way of doing curbside miniature golf. I’m really frustrated at how the rules have been implemented.”
Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight. Out of all the colors on his complex regime, the governor refused to include a “green,” or all clear, category.
Not only is there no expiration date for the governor’s arbitrary restrictions on the business Daryn is banking on for his family’s survival, Daryn has nowhere to turn for help.
“It’s extremely unfair. I could lose everything, and I don’t have any recourse. Who do I talk to? My state representative had nothing to do with it. I go on Twitter and tweet about Gavin Newsom, but that’s all I can do,” he says.
Until now, that is. Governors can take many actions to deal with emergencies, but they are not allowed to make laws, as Newsom has done. The California Constitution is clear: lawmaking is the legislature’s job.
“A governor cannot design an entire regulatory regime that restricts business operations and forces indefinite closures without violating the Constitution’s separation of powers,” says PLF attorney Luke Wake. “No crisis or emergency gives the governor that authority. Not even a pandemic.”
With no end in sight to the shutdown, Daryn is fighting back. He and another small business owner and entrepreneur facing similar struggles are suing to end the governor’s unlawful orders and restore the separation of powers throughout the state. “Somebody needs to do something about the governor’s rules and how they’ve been implemented because it just isn’t right,” Daryn says. “We need to set a precedent that this kind of one-man rule can never happen again.”
The California Constitution clearly and expressly lays out the boundaries of power for each branch of government. A state legislature cannot hand open-ended power to a governor or a state agency, even during an emergency like a pandemic.
Government has firm boundaries for rulemaking. When you invest in PLF, you empower everyday Americans like Daryn Coleman to defend his livelihood from government actors who use a pandemic to ignore the rule of law and grow their power. Thank you!Donate
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