FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – The three Fresno businesses that were fined for allegedly remaining open during the city’s emergency order to shelter in place are temporarily closed.
All three are tobacco stores were in separate districts and each one was fined $1,000.
Last week the city raised the minimum fine from $250 to $1000 to deter non-essential business owners to close their doors.
“We are going to be proactive,” said Councilmember Luis Chavez. “We are gonna be out there and we just want to send a message that if you are not considered essential please do not open your doors. you will face a fine.”
Chavez said ‘Cigarettes’, a business in his district allegedly did not shut down after the emergency.
He said some smoke shops have argued that because convenience stores are able to stay open the tobacco stores should be able to as well.
“There is a big difference were convenience store is selling toilet paper and selling groceries and food and basic necessities,” said Chavez. “Whereas these folks are just selling tobacco and cigars and things of that sort.”
According to the city attorney’s office, since the emergency order to shelter in place, around 230 Fresno businesses have been investigated for reportedly not shutting down. 84 cease and despite letters have been sent and three $1,000 fines have been issued.
The City Attorney’s Office also has investigated around 230 investigations and handed out two tickets– one for $10,000, for allegedly overpricing water and another for $1,000 for not hanging up the city’s price gouging sign.
Councilmember Esmerelda Soria sympathizes with the businesses because she knows for some it is their sole income but says it was necessary.
“We are taking a strong stance because we do believe that by people staying at home that we are going to lower the number or we are going to prevent folks from getting the coronavirus or even death,” said Soria. “We are starting to hear the stories, so that is what we are trying to prevent.”
The owner of 559 Cigarettes plans to appeal the fine.
He said he should be able to open because he sells more than just tobacco products.