Earlier this week, California Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) agents visited numerous Yuba and Sutter County restaurants and threatened to revoke their liquor licenses if they didn’t close.
ABC agents in Sutter and Yuba restaurants
ABC has said that defying the orders is not only illegal, but it also ‘endangers public health and safety’. However, as of Thursday, most remained open despite the looming threat.
Yuba County and Sutter County joined Modoc County in completely reopening against Governor Gavin Newsom’s statewide lockdown orders on Monday. They have argued that they should reopen as the coronavirus is not affecting rural counties nearly as much, and that all reopening businesses are following state and county public health guidelines, such as the six foot distancing rule and mandatory masks.
“They’ve been really careful,” noted Yuba City resident Robert Douglas, who has dined at two area restaurants since reopening. “Everyone has been super careful. Our waitress came over in a mask and gloves, and all the surrounding tables were empty despite a lot of people showing up.”
“I still haven’t gotten used to it, but it reminded me of when I was at the hospital getting tested. That kind of safety has been implemented.”
Public health concerns
The increased presence and threats of ABC agents is largely due to public safety concerns and as a reaction by state officials to open defiance of health safety laws.
Other Californian restaurants and bars have gotten away with remaining open while also serving liquor despite the restaurant closure measures, although they have managed to remain open thanks to county intervention and restaurants in question now following health safety laws. But, as noted by Governor Gavin Newsom, state agency intervention was deemed needed after entire counties, not isolated restaurants, started going against the public health order.
“They’re putting their public at risk,” stated Governor Newsom on Tuesday. “They’re putting our progress at risk. We’ve been clear about that. Well aware of those examples. These are exceptions. These are real exceptions. The overwhelming majority of Californians are playing by the rules, doing the right thing.”
The counties themselves are divided on the issue. Many local citizens and lawmakers have approved of the counties reopening against the state’s wishes, citing a restart on the economy. Many others, including health officials from both counties, are worried about what may happen.
“I understand that some of your customers may strongly object to a facial covering requirement, but the long-term safety of our community is at stake. We do not want to take any steps back in our phasing-in efforts,” said Yuba-Sutter Public Health Officer Dr. Phuong Luu in a letter on Wednesday.
Local concerns of reopening
Many residents are acutely aware of the pros and cons of such a reopening.
“We understand this,” explained Becky Douglas, a Yuba City resident and the wife of Robert. “There’s always the danger of the coronavirus, but we need commerce and business to start up again.”
“By reopening now, the community is helped out a lot but we also run a greater risk of exposure. If we stay closed, the risk is lower but so many other people suffer more in terms of their livelihood.”
“We’re such a small county, both counties really, that the risk is lower for us, and as long as we’re careful, we can reopen now. That’s the general consensus here. Politicians just don’t get that about smaller counties.”
As of Thursday, no restaurant has lost their liquor license nor has there been a repeated visit by ABC agents. But with the state moving to the next phase of reopening Friday, and more counties hinting at a full reopening soon, action may be taken in the near future.
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