State Agency Hits Non-Compliant Restaurants With Warnings, Fines

January 12, 2021 Updated: January 13, 2021

Orange County officials might not be clamping down on local restaurants defying state health orders, but that doesn’t mean the eateries are off the hook.

California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has been penalizing noncompliant restaurants since July, and has cited 19 Orange County businesses for violating state health orders. It has issued several warnings that resulted in voluntary compliance.

Its clampdown continues during an ongoing regional stay-at-home order for Southern California. Under the state-mandated guideline, which began Dec. 12, restaurants are restricted to takeout and delivery only. However, many are ignoring the rule and have opened their patios and indoor dining rooms to patrons.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department as well as the Orange County Health Care Agency have said they won’t enforce the health order.

But the ABC will. Since July, the agency has conducted more than 160,400 site visits to food and beverage locations with ABC licenses throughout California, spokesperson John Carr told The Epoch Times in an email. Statewide, the department has issued 184 citations for violations of the health orders.

Restaurant owners not complying with health orders can be cited with misdemeanor violations and fined up to $1,000 or sentenced up to six months in jail. Administrative action is taken against the owner’s ABC license as well, and the discipline can result in a suspension or revocation of the license, Carr said.

“If the licensee gains immediate compliance, then the discipline can be stayed for one year, which is similar to a one-year probation period,” he said.

Near the end of 2020, some Orange County restaurants remained open for in-person dining in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order amid the CCP virus surge. Some restaurant owners protested under the hashtag #OpenSafe, implying that they would continue providing distanced seating and requiring masks, while keeping their dining rooms open.

Despite some resistance by county restaurants, Carr said compliance with the emergency health orders has been high.

“Most businesses are following the health orders,” he said. “ABC prefers voluntary compliance with the health orders, but it will take enforcement action when businesses refuse to comply. The department would rather gain compliance through conversation and in-person visits; however, when a business is not cooperative, then the department will issue a citation and forward the citation to a district attorney. The department will also move forward with administrative action.”