FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Fresno City Council voted Thursday to allow immediate fines of up to $10,000 for gatherings of 50 people or more in the city, in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19.
According to the city, both the property owner and the organizer of the event would be fined up to $10,000. The order applies to both commercial and private gatherings, including New Year’s Eve parties at businesses and event halls. It also applies to backyard parties and concerts.
Fresno’s code enforcement will not be issuing warnings, but immediately hand out fines instead.
“All of these profits that you are reaping from these backyard concerts, you will likely have to pay them back in court fees and fines because we do intend to prosecute these,” said Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chavez.
The order was passed by 5 votes to 2, with Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Paul Caprioglio against it.
The fines for businesses and mass gatherings will be $1,000 for a first offense, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for a third and subsequent offenses.
In a statement, the City of Fresno says hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
The City Attorney and Code Enforcement have been directed to enforce all emergency orders prohibiting mass gatherings, including any New Year’s parties and similar gatherings. Owners of property where violations occur and promoters of these illegal gatherings will be cited as egregious violations, without additional notice or warnings, to the maximum extent provided by law.
The order starts immediately, and will be reviewed next week.
In Fresno County, officials plan to take a different approach – including not shutting down a huge two-night underground rave.
“Here in Fresno County we really rely on voluntary compliance,” said Fresno Supervisor Nathan Magsig.
Around 1,000 people from all over the state are expected to attend a rave in Riverdale.
“We do know that there is supposed to be a party,” said Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s Tony Botti. “It has been on our radar. We may go out tonight to say ‘Hey, we are going to be out tonight. We hope you have a safe evening.”
The Sheriff’s Office will not shut down the event or any other gatherings for breaking COVID restrictions.
“We are not going to be performing COVID enforcement,” said Botti.
Deputies will only respond if there are other problems, such as noise complaints, traffic violations, or drinking and driving.
However, Fresno County supervisors advise residents not to gather as the hospital systems are already overwhelmed.
“It is for us to be responsible, and enjoy the New Year,” said Supervisor Nathan Magsig. “But to the extent that we cannot gather in large groups, it is very important.”
This article has been updated to include more information on the dollar amount of fines for offenses.