Calla Lily Crepes owner defends COVID rule defiance
A Calla Lily Crepes employee has claimed the business is “anti-mask.” There’s pending litigation stemming from alleged violations of state COVID-19 mandates.
Despite that, Calla Lily Crepes co-owner Rebecca Sweet-Engstrom said she is looking out for the health of the community, just not in the way the state prescribes.
Last week, Calla Lily employee George Gault said the business had no intention of complying with state regulations, and while that’s still the case, Sweet-Engstrom said the situation is more nuanced than that.
“Our personal beliefs on whether they work or they don’t work, that’s just for us,” she said. “If people want to wear a mask, they should absolutely wear a mask. You know, we’re not telling people that wear them to take their masks off.”
According to Sweet-Engstrom, the business has taken its own measures to ensure customer safety by installing an ultraviolet air scrubber and air filtration system.
“Ultraviolet light goes in the air duct, which circulates all the air for heating and cooling in the building and removes 99.99% of viruses and bacteria and all kinds of things out of the air,” she said.
Sweet-Engstrom said she’s written to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to get the state to recognize her mitigation efforts and allow her business to remain open.
“They said they were looking for solutions and that is a solution for indoor spaces,” Sweet-Engstrom said. “The health department wasn’t open to having a conversation about it. We told them when we installed it. There’s just no ability to have a conversation about it, and that’s really the sad part.”
County Counsel Kit Elliot and Environmental Health Director Amy Irani declined to comment on the case pending the outcome of the litigation. The county served the business with a cease-and-desist letter and revoked its permit in September. According to court records, the county and Nevada City filed a complaint Sept. 15 in Nevada County Superior Court against Calla Lily Crepes co-owner Darren Engstrom.
In an email Irani previously stated the county continues to encourage the owner to meet with the Environmental Heath Department to come to a resolution.
The business owner said she’d like to see the state recognize their efforts and for the county to lift its state of emergency and allow Calla Lily to continue operating indoors. According to Sweet-Engstrom, temporarily shutting down may not be an option for them.
“We have a small footprint. We feel that the one-size-fits-all ruling is very arbitrary. If we went back to not allowing indoor dining, we probably wouldn’t be making it,” Sweet-Engstrom said. “If we close, we go out of business. We don’t have a bunch of money in the bank, this is our sole source of income.”
Sweet-Engstrom said her customers haven’t complained and her biggest detractors are people who have not visited the business.
“People who are scared are staying home,” she said. “People that are coming out, come out, and they want to just be able to live their life normally.”
She said they will be adding outdoor seating this week.
Three other businesses previously fined for flaunting state mandates have come to a settlement with the county after coming into compliance. According to Sweet-Engstrom, her personal choice to continue operating indoors is all about commonsense.
“If this virus were proving to be truly that catastrophic things would be very different,” she said. “We want to be able to continue to serve our community and serve good food.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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