Nevada County asks to meet with Valentina’s owners next week over COVID-19 regulations
Supporters — most of whom were not wearing masks — crowded Valentina’s Organic Bistro and Bakery on Friday, the day after owners Valentina and Ron Masterz received a notice from the county to comply with the state’s COVID-19 mandates.
The notice, signed by Nevada County Director of Environmental Health Amy Irani, notified the Grass Valley restaurant that it was not operating in compliance with current COVID-19 Workplace Specific Plan requirements. The Thursday notice gave the restaurant 24 hours to implement the plan in writing, and warned that failure to do so would result in closure.
“We didn’t want any of this, we just want to be your local mom and pop,” Ron Masterz said while addressing a crowd of supporters that gathered in front of Valentina’s Friday morning. “If you don’t want to patronize us, you don’t have to.”
Any potential closure has been postponed pending a meeting, hopefully by mid-next week, between county officials, the bistro’s owners and their attorney, said Nevada County Counsel Kit Elliott late Friday.
“We spent quite some time talking.” Elliott said of her initial meeting with attorney Gregg Lien. “I walked him through the actions (Environmental Health) has been taking, that they are for the protection of the business itself, not the county.”
Elliott said she believes Valentina’s owners have misunderstood the purpose of the COVID-19 mandate requirements, and she has asked for a sit-down with them, Lien and Irani.
“As an employer you have a responsibility to your employees, and a responsibility to the public.” she said, adding that if a business has a plan, and can show it is attempting to keep people safe, they are less likely to be sued.
“This county has been steadfast in its protection of local business,” Elliott said. “We are trying to do everything we can to assist them.”
Others in the business community have shown their support, Ron Masterz said, and are waiting to see what the outcome of their situation is before potentially following suit.
“We’ve been having people come up to us and say we agree with you,” he said.
“This is a crime against humanity,” Loraine Webb said of the mask mandate. “They’re promoting masks for little children and social distancing and this needs to stop.”
“The media has conflated us with the right-wing Trump supporters,” Webb said during Friday’s rally in support of Valentina’s. “That’s just not true. Furthest thing from the truth. … By distancing and separating us with this kind of tactic, our voices are being silenced and the info we’re trying to get out there is being censored. We need to start listening to each other.”
Part of the reason the county works to ensure that businesses are following the workplace plan is to keep the state from mandating another total shutdown, Elliott said, adding. “That would be horrific.”
“I think there’s a very good chance we can have a resolution,” Elliott said. “It’s not about masks, that’s not at all what this conversation is about. It’s about keeping employees and the public safe.”
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