Costa Mesa Bar Owner Charged with Illegally Operating During COVID-19 Pandemic

December 31, 2020 Updated: December 31, 2020

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS)—The owner of a Costa Mesa bar has been charged with illegally operating during curfew hours for nonessential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Dec. 31.

Roland Michael Barrera—who owns the Westend bar—is set to be arraigned June 22 on a misdemeanor count of violating and neglecting to obey a lawful order and regulation, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The 47-year-old Costa Mesa resident allegedly repeatedly refused to adhere to an order mandating that all nonessential businesses close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., despite repeated efforts by law enforcement and city code enforcement officers to educate him on the law and seek voluntary compliance, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Costa Mesa police, city code enforcement officers, and agents from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) have responded to the bar numerous times since an emergency lockdown order was issued Nov. 19, and the bar allegedly continued to operate on multiple occasions outside of the mandated closure times—at times hosting 50-70 customers without enforcing social distancing or facial coverings for their employees or customers, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

“It is unacceptable for a business to repeatedly flaunt the regulations and continue to operate without even attempting to institute any mitigating measures that are designed to save lives,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement.

“This is not just any business. This is a business that was provided opportunity after opportunity to take corrective action and it has failed to do so. This blatant disregard of the local and state health orders is a slap in the face to hardworking business owners who continue to try to the do the right thing during these extremely trying times.”

The bar’s manager, Luisza Giuletta Mauro, 26, of Huntington Beach, has been charged with one misdemeanor count of resisting a police officer for allegedly trying to prevent the officer from entering the business about 11 p.m. Dec. 12, according to the District Attorney’s Office. She is also set to be arraigned June 22 at the West Justice Center in Westminster.

Barrera and Mauro could each face up to a year in jail if convicted, but the District Attorney’s Office said it was hopeful that there will be no new violations and that the case can be resolved through additional education courses through the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and other educational efforts instead of jail time.

The District Attorney’s Office said it has supported an education-and-outreach philosophy in connection with the health orders and had declined to file charges in nearly two dozen cases presented from around the county against business owners accused of operating illegally during the pandemic.