The French Laundry is a well-known Michelin-starred restaurant in Yountville. (Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock)

The French Laundry is a well-known Michelin-starred restaurant in Yountville. (Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock)

Gov. Newsom apologizes for attending birthday dinner in Napa county

By Eli Walsh

Bay City News Foundation

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’s Alexei Koseff, Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, attended the 50th birthday party for Jason Kinney, a longtime political advisor, on Nov. 6 at the Michelin-starred restaurant in Yountville, located in Napa County.

The dinner included at least 12 people, according to Koseff’s report, which Newsom said on Monday was “a larger group than I had anticipated.”

“I made a bad mistake,” Newsom said Monday. “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 said 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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