Nevada County ordinance fining noncompliant businesses sparks backlash |

Nevada County ordinance fining noncompliant businesses sparks backlash

John Orona
Staff Writer

watch the meeting

What: Nevada County Board of Supervisors

When: 9 a.m. today; urgency ordinance at 1:30 p.m.


A temporary urgency ordinance before the Nevada County Board of Supervisors that would fine businesses not in compliance with COVID-19 mandates has sparked plans for protest outside the Eric Rood Administrative Center today.

The ordinance calls for a $1,000 fine for the first violation of a COVID-19 order involving a business activity, $5,000 for a second violation within one year and $10,000 for additional violations within that same year. It also requires the county to establish a process for granting a hardship waiver reducing the penalty if it can be shown the fine would cause undue financial burden, and the business owner made efforts to comply following the first violation.

A four-fifths affirmative vote is required for passage.

Supervisors meet remotely at 9 a.m. today. The urgency ordinance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

In an email blast Sunday, owners of Friar Tuck’s Ken and Chad Paige called for people to protest the supervisors’ meeting and oppose the ordinance.

“We cannot financially survive with outdoor dining, the upcoming PG&E shutdowns and 40% of our revenue is during the months of November and December. We have the capacity for 185 indoor customers and moving outside dining would provide at the maximum 40,” the email read. “To ask us to survive outside with an 80% reduction in revenue until the rain arrives in the fall is financial suicide and what I am now seeing as an act of terrorism on our rights.”

Owners of Sergio’s Caffe, Lena and Sergio Martignago, expressed similar views in an email.

“With high summer temperatures many of our diners will not come, and obviously no one will sit outside in cold and/or rainy weather. Serving on the street requires extra personnel and with reduction of revenue will not make economic sense,” the email read. “To ask us to operate under these conditions is financial suicide and what we are now seeing as an act of terrorism on our rights.”

The proposed ordinance comes a week after the county delivered notices of violation to three businesses not in compliance with state orders shutting down indoor operations at restaurants.

As of Monday, those businesses — Friar Tuck’s, Old Town Cafe, and Sergio’s Caffe — are still not in compliance and face fines of $2,575 each. They will be fined $1,000 for each additional day they are operating.


Compliance with COVID-19-related mandates has increasingly become a political and economic issue as well as a health one.

A Facebook message from chairman of the Nevada County Republican Party Robert Hren requested people write to the board opposing the ordinance, which he called “an outrageous escalation and power grab.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa this month visited Old Town Cafe as it refused to comply with state orders to shut down indoor operations. LaMalfa said with the local approach he advocates, Nevada County businesses should be able to remain open.

According to Audrey Denney, the Democrat challenging LaMalfa in the November election, she supports the state’s current approach.

“I would like to see our businesses that have been devastated by this crisis return to normal as soon as possible. This can be done if we set aside politics and rely on science and data to guide us,” Denney said in an email. “While I agree that are a few geographic exceptions in our state that should be examined and considered, I support our current hybrid system of statewide and county precautions that are almost entirely driven by local data.”

During the meeting the board will also vote on approving the process that will disburse $1.75 million in coronavirus relief funds to local anchor institutions. Any business, organization or jurisdiction would need to adhere to all state COVID-19 mandates to be eligible for funding.

The state last week denied the cities of Atwater and Coalinga close to a combined $600,000 in coronavirus relief funding for not adhering to state COVID-19 mandates.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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