‘We prefer education over enforcement’: California ABC on enforcing limited stay at home order

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FRESNO, California (KGPE) – The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control oversees any business in the state which sells, serves, or manufactures alcohol. Since July, agents with the ABC have been tasked to make sure businesses are complying with the state’s Coronavirus health orders, and the latest limited stay at home order and a curfew is no different.

“We don’t want to be writing citations but if someone is being uncooperative and they are putting people at risk during the pandemic, then we might have to write a citation,” said the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Public Information Officer John Carr.

He says during the first weekend (Nov. 21 and Nov. 22) of the state’s 10 p.m. curfew for non-essential businesses, agents visited 2,200 sites in 17 counties. He said no citations were issued but they did give several verbal warnings.

“Since July 1, when ABC started its work with the California Office of Emergency Services COVID – 19 Task Force, agents have made over 97,000 site visits to businesses and only issued 146 citations for health order violations. If ABC receives a complaint then agents will follow up. Agents try to resolve any concerns with an in-person visit and conversation. Most businesses have complied when we have made visits.”

Carr says if a business continues to violate a health order, they may issue a criminal citation. It would then be up to the local district attorney whether they choose to prosecute. In Fresno County, District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said she would not prosecute violations of the curfew order.
“License revocation is very rare they don’t happen very often and it takes a long time, there is due process,” said Carr.

The curfew was the final blow for Vyxn owner Lewis Everk who will close his restaurant and lounge. He says he didn’t want to risk getting a state violation that could hurt his chance of getting a license in the future.

“At this point for me it’s just stopping the bleeding to save anything I have left to start up something later in life,” said Everk.

Carr encourages all business owners with questions or concerns to reach out to the ABC.
“They are doing a good job and we get it, we know this has not been easy,” said Carr.

ABC announced Wednesday a 30-day extension on annual license renewal fees to give businesses a grace period during the tough financial times.

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