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Newsom Apologizes for Attending Birthday Dinner in Napa County 

click to enlarge The French Laundry restaurant in Napa County.

The French Laundry restaurant in Napa County.

Gov. Gavin Newsom publicly apologized Monday for attending a birthday party at the French Laundry earlier this month, saying that he contradicted the guidance he's given discouraging social gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, attended the 50th birthday party for Jason Kinney, a longtime political advisor, on Friday, Nov. 6, at the Michelin-starred restaurant in Yountville, located in Napa County.

In addition to advising Newsom, Kinney is a lobbyist who worked for California Strategies, a Sacramento firm, from Jan. 1, 2012, through Nov. 6, 2018, according to state lobbying records.

At the end of 2018, Kinney served on Newsom’s gubernatorial transition team and then registered as a lobbyist with Axiom Advisors, a recently-formed lobbying firm, CalMatters reported at the time.

Last month, Kinney made news again when Capital & Main, an investigative reporting website, broke news that Newsom’s administration had approved additional fracking permits for one of Axiom Advisors’ clients. The news came a month after Newsom signed an executive order to ban fracking in the state by 2024.

The Nov. 6 French Laundry dinner included at least 12 people, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which Newsom said on Monday was "a larger group than I had anticipated."

"I made a bad mistake," Newsom said. "Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up and walked back to my car and drove back to my house."

Newsom acknowledged that he contradicted his own administration's guidance on social gatherings, which discourages the mixing of more than three households, and noted that he has to practice the standards he's laid out for the rest of the state.

Newsom added that he's gone out to dinner only two other times since February, both times outdoors and alone with Siebel Newsom rather than with a larger group.

"I need to preach and practice, not just preach and not practice," he said. "I've done my best to do that. We're all human, we all fall short sometimes."

At the time, Napa County was in the "orange tier," the second least-restrictive tier of the state's pandemic reopening system, allowing both indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants.

However, the state tightened restrictions on most counties Monday, moving more than two dozen - including Napa County - into the state's most-restrictive, purple tier as cases rise across the state.

Newsom granted that he had concerns about losing political capital and public trust at a time when the state hopes to rein in riskier activities like indoor dining at restaurants and just over a week before Thanksgiving.

"You have to own it and you have to be forthright," he said. "I'm doing my best every single day and trying to model better behavior. So I made one mistake, I should have just gotten up from that table and left. And so you own that, you move on and you continue to do the work that you were sent here to do."

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