Nevada County has app for complaints about compliance with COVID-19 rules
Nevada County Environmental Health has received several complaints from residents regarding businesses hosting large gatherings, some related to weddings, officials said.
When a complaint is made, county staff determine whether the location of the relevant event falls within an incorporated or unincorporated jurisdiction of the county. If incorporated, the complaint is referred to city or town representatives — police contacts in the case of Grass Valley and Nevada City.
“If it is in the unincorporated area of the county, our staff follow up with the property (or) event owner,” County Administrative Analyst Taylor Wolfe said in an email. “Proof is not required, but any information they have is helpful, such as an invitation, social media post, or other documentation regarding the event. This helps our staff have a more direct conversation with the property owner or event organizer.”
She said the county has followed up on every complaint received.
“We encourage the public to use the AskNevadaCounty system — at http://www.mynevadacounty.com/asknevco — to submit complaints,” Wolfe said.
According to Nevada County building director Craig Griesbach, complaints of this nature are sometimes received informally at the county level, and the resident making the complaint is asked to officially submit through the designated app. He said, at times, this does not end up occurring, and local authorities will then not necessarily receive the complaint.
Nevada City authorities said Friday that they have not received any complaints of businesses hosting large gatherings for “quite some time.”
“So far, education has been an effective tool to assist these businesses better understand the COVID guidelines and adjust their plans accordingly,” said Wolfe. “Regarding weddings, ceremonies are allowed under the Places of Worship state guidance, but wedding receptions are not allowed.”
OPERATING WITHIN GUIDELINES
According to Griesbach, the county has received some complaints about large gatherings hosted by businesses and found the businesses to be operating within health guidelines.
Griesbach said this has been the case with Harmony Ridge Lodge, which has hosted wedding ceremonies, and what Harmony Ridge owner Yenkang Liu described Thursday as small gatherings, but not wedding receptions, afterward.
Liu said about half of the weddings originally scheduled to be held at Harmony Lodge this season have been rescheduled or cancelled, while the other half were held on their originally planned date.
“Our staff have followed up with Harmony Ridge several times since the beginning of the summer,” said Griesbach, adding that the lodge showed contracts and plans each time, which showed events would meet county health guidelines.
On the distinction between a business operating within their industry guidelines and what would be considered a wedding reception, Griesbach said, “It’s a hard one to enforce,” explaining that if hotels are following guidance on hosting gatherings of hotel guests, even if these guests invite others who are not staying the night, they may still be in compliance when hosting gatherings following wedding ceremonies.
Jonathan Rowe, owner of The Stone House, said Friday that he believes there has been some misunderstanding in the community regarding whether Stone House events have been operating within county guidelines, adding that staff have worked closely with the county to ensure the applicable guidelines are met.
Concerning the restaurant and event venue’s adjustments in operations as guidelines have evolved, Stone House events and facilities manager Jacob Van Dutten said, “It’s less that (the county) is OK with what we’re doing, and more that we are 100% following what they’re OK with.”
Gayle Klein, Stone House vice president of sales and marketing, said they are hosting wedding ceremonies, as permitted by state health guidelines, and then offering dinner services afterward, which have generally consisted of between 20 and 40 guests.
She said these are not considered wedding receptions — which health guidelines currently do not permit — and the dinners have been adjusted to reflect restaurant guidelines. They have been outdoors, tables have been reconfigured to allow more distanced seating, and all dinner service is plated rather than buffet-style for the time being, according to Klein.
Klein said approximately half of the weddings originally scheduled for this fall were rescheduled, while the other half have adjusted their guest count to meet current restrictions and been held on their originally planned date. She said not many have been cancelled.
Rowe estimated that, according to the 50% indoor seating capacity currently permitted in Nevada County restaurants, over 100 people could be accommodated at The Stone House with the required distancing in place.
“It’s amazing that they’re now allowing 50% (seating capacity) inside,” said Rowe, adding that The Stone House has been close to having to close its doors for good this year due to reduced business, and that he is thankful to be able to retain events to the degree he has.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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