BENICIA, Calif. (KRON) — Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the formation of strike teams to make sure bars and restaurants across the state follow the guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The teams are made up of officers from various state agencies, including the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.
A recent visit to one Bay Area business has the restaurant owner up in arms.
In addition to customers visiting Benicia’s Loft Wine Bar and Restaurant Wednesday, were two Alcohol Beverage Control officers who are part of the governor’s COVID-19 strike team, who quizzed employees about why they were not wearing masks.
“They weren’t here to educate, they were just here to write a citation,” owner Jason Diavitas said.
The citation restaurant owner Jason Diavitas was given simply says no masks. Diavitas admits at least four of his five staffers weren’t wearing masks because of health issues.
“Everyone has to wear a face covering unless they have a health issue that prevent them from wearing one, that’s right off the information from the state of California,” Diavitas said. “As an employer, I am following that guideline.”
But in a statement Alcohol Beverage Control says that’s not how the policy reads.
They say the guidelines state: “Persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition who are employed in a job involving regular contact with others should wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.”
They say “no employees or the owner were wearing face coverings.”
Diavitas said he followed the policy as he understood it and had ABC offered education it would be one thing, but he says their approach was heavy handed and possibly illegal.
“My staff was intimidated. They said they wanted to record the interaction,” he said. “They were told under color of authority absolutely not.”
Diavitas will have his day in court but says the state has to do a better job.
“I don’t feel singled out but these attacks on small business can’t continue,” he said. “We cannot withstand this pressure, we are too small — we cannot fight the state.”
ABC says they were called to that restaurant in the first place due to a community complaint about a lack of masks.
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