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Nevada County restaurants organize against state mandates

After months of agitation against state-mandated, county-enforced COVID-19 orders, some Nevada County restaurants are organizing their opposition and looking for supporters to join their cause.

Last week, Friar Tuck’s Restaurant and Bar announced the creation of the “Nevada County Restaurant Coalition,” which seeks to accelerate the timeline for businesses to fully return to indoor dining. According to a news release from the restaurant, the coalition was formed after restaurants came back into compliance with regulations and began formulating a more sustainable long-term strategy to reopen.

Friar Tuck’s couldn’t be reached for comment.



“We started it out of a need to have some common sense on what we’re doing here and not just caving in to arbitrary, draconian rules,” said Sergio Martignago, owner of Sergio’s Caffe, which is listed as an inaugural partner of the coalition. “There is strength in numbers, if just one or two of us are fighting back it’s easy to shut us down, but there is power in numbers.”

Martignago said the coalition hopes by organizing enough of the community to bring state and local officials to a dialogue that could speed up the reopening process in a way the coalition feels is more in line with local conditions.



“We don’t want to be unsafe or anything like that, but on the other hand we need the community to survive. We want to be safe, of course, who doesn’t want to be safe, we want to do things right but within reason,” Martignago said. “We hope others will understand what we’re doing and join us.”

The coalition’s website asks people to donate to member restaurants, with funds potentially going toward a “financial war chest to support our legal constitutional rights,” and to give businesses “the financial recourses to remain alive during this crisis.”

While the state’s new reopening roadmap means the county can slowly increase indoor operations, with the ability to move up in the four-stage process every three weeks, Martignago said that is not quick enough. County restaurants are currently allowed to operate indoors at 25% capacity, or about two dozen seats in the case of Sergio’s Caffe.

“We’re still mostly outside and that works fine when the weather is good but we’re moving into more severe weather soon,” he said. “Even now with so much smoke outside it’s not very healthy.”

While the coalition emphasized the need for open communication, Martignago acknowledged even if county and state officials were to listen to their complaints and explain their position, it would not satisfy them.

“We want dialogue with the officials, we want to be able to talk to them back and forth and have them explain why are they doing this and why are they afraid to talk to us,” he said. “But dialogue with no results is useless, we don’t just want to chit-chat.”

The coalition’s website lists Friar Tuck’s, Sergio’s Caffe, One 11 Kitchen and Bar, Old Town Cafe, Maria’s Mexican Restaurant and Kane’s Bar and Grill as inaugural partners.

Friar Tuck’s, Sergio’s Caffe, and Old Town Cafe were previously fined by the county for noncompliance with the state’s indoor dining regulations. The businesses had their licenses suspended but were reinstated as of Aug. 4. after coming into compliance.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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