As California prepares to enter Stage 2 of reopening Friday, Kern Public Health wants to make very clear: dine-in restaurants are not yet allowed, and there are dire consequences for businesses who open before they’re allowed to.
Since Kern Public Health rescinded its local order on Saturday, there has already been confusion, as restaurants like Mossman’s and Donna Kaye’s Cafe were quick to reopen.
But Public Health quickly put out their fire.
“The governor’s order remains, and restaurants should remain closed to dine-in services,” clarified Public Health director, Matt Constantine.
“The State of California, Governor Gavin Newsom, is calling the shots,” said Kern chief administrative officer, Ryan Alsop. “We don’t have to like it. We can protest it. We can advocate for greater flexibility and latitude in how we make decisions locally, which we’re doing. But at the end of the day, it’s the state.”
Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order carries the force of the law, so it is constitutional.
If a nonessential business goes against it, the county says local law enforcement can be used. However, they would prefer to leave that as a last resort.
“We don’t want to go out and arrest folks and provide big fines to folks locally who are simply trying to get their businesses back open, and get back to work and provide for their families,” Alsop said.
So if there is only verbal reinforcement, where is the incentive to actually stay closed? How are businesses held accountable?
“We are not slapping wrists,” Alsop responded. “Our Public Health officials will call and reinforce and communicate to them, it is not time for them to be opening. If we have to do it ten times, we will do it ten times.”
So the incentive comes from the state level. The county warns licenses could be at stake for noncompliant businesses.
“There are a number of different jobs and licenses through the state, and you need to be aware,” Alsop said. “If you’re in cosmetology, you’re licensed through the state. Most restaurants have alcoholic beverage control licenses. That’s a tether that the state has. Alcohol beverage control has already been communicating with local businesses in Kern County about just that.”
Noncompliant businesses could also ruin Kern’s shot at reopening a little earlier than the rest of the state. The Board of Supervisors has already asked the governor for more flexibility locally.
“Your actions may be providing greater headwind to getting to that point with the state,” Alsop said.