In May, the Lodi City Council directed local police to avoid complaints of businesses violating COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, leaving enforcement duties to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office or state agencies.
Last week, the council again urged the Lodi Police Department not to enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, stating that state agencies should be left to handle violations.
When the topic of local bars allegedly breaking the rules arose during a special council meeting, the consensus was to let the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control handle complaints.
Between July 3 and 16, the ABC has issued 26 citations in Sacramento, Solano, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, two of which were against Lodi businesses.
According to ABC records, Netillo’s Takos and Mimosa’s Gourmet, located at 123 and 117 W. Elm St., respectively, were both cited for COVID-19 violations between July 6 and 16. Exact dates of the violations and citations were not provided.
Both eateries were cited for allowing patrons to dine inside, as well as for not following social distancing guidelines. Patrons or employees were also not wearing masks, the ABC said.
Under the governor’s most recent stay-at-home order update, eateries are only allowed to serve customers outdoors, and as long as six feet of distance is provided between them.
John Carr, spokesman for the ABC, said misdemeanor citations were written and given to the owner or manager of businesses where violations were found. Citations are forwarded to county district attorneys, who then make the determination whether to prosecute.
Misdemeanor citations typically range from $100 to $1,000, but a judge also determines the amount to charge, he said.
The ABC said it made more than 24,500 site visits across the state during the month of July, issuing 103 citations. The number of complaints received is unknown, the agency said.
“Compliance with the health orders has been extremely high, the vast majority of businesses are compliant and doing their best to navigate the restrictions placed on them during this pandemic,” ABC spokesman John Carr said. “If ABC receives complaints, agents do follow up. ABC understands the challenges the business community faces. That is why the department has quickly adopted various notices of regulatory relief such as alcoholic beverages to go, and expansion of their licensed footprints to allow for more seating capacity outdoors in parking lots, sidewalks, patios and adjacent property that is in line with local zoning concerns.”
Carr said the ABC has not taken action against any businesses and that it is still reviewing violations. If the agency decides to pursue disciplinary action, business owners have a right to request a hearing before an administrative law judge to present their case.
Penalties for violations include a fine, a suspension or even revocation in a case depending on the track record of the business, and whether there have been multiple violations of the law, he said.
To review the notices of regulatory relief for businesses, visit www.abc.ca.gov/law-and-policy/coronavirus19.