CARLSBAD, Calif.– Carlsbad city leaders are considering beefing up enforcement of state and local public health orders including potentially implementing new fines for businesses defying the rules.
In a special meeting Tuesday, the Carlsbad City Council will decide on whether to put into place an administrative citation process that would allow the city to hand down fines for breaking the public health order, Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said.
Schumacher submitted a letter to the city’s mayor Dec. 22 calling for the meeting after a recent spike in cease and desist letters in her district. Between Dec. 10-15, 17 such orders were issued.
Her district includes The Village, where several businesses and restaurants have been “peacefully protesting” public health rules by remaining open.
“We just want to stay open and we don’t believe we are criminals at all,” said Justin Murphy, whose parents run Gonzo Ramen in The Village. “We are just a family business.”
The Murphys say Gonzo Ramen has been visited several times by enforcement agencies in the past year, provided cease and desist letter and recently instructed to put up their outdoor dining tables.
“I really believe outdoor dining is safe,” owner Mika Murphy said. “Look out here, there’s so much airflow. I don’t know why this is dangerous.”
Under the state’s regional stay-at-home order, restaurants only are allowed to operate for take-out or delivery service. The order, which had been expected to expire late last month in the state’s Southern California region, was extended by state public health officials as an uptick in infections has strained regional health care systems and their ICUs.
San Diego County has reported more than 171,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 1,600 deaths during the pandemic, including 3,013 new cases Monday and another increase in hospitalizations.
The county has recorded more than 1,000 new daily cases for 35 straight days and 10 times has reached more than 3,000 cases.
At Gonzo Ramen, they’re conflicted. Like many others, they’re bearing the weight of restrictions brought on as a damaging, once-in-a-generation public health crisis spirals into a new calendar year, with a vaccine rollout thus far that’s only has reached about 1% of California’s population.
They want to adhere to rules, but they also want to stay in business, Justin Murphy said.
“As a small family owned business we want to abide by the rules and we don’t want to try to assert too much of our opinion because we have just started,” he said.
If the proposal passes, additional enforcement would fall under city municipal code with fines ranging up to $500. Schumacher twice brought the idea to the table last year, but the body was split 2-2 after a fifth seat was vacated.
Now with a full council in place, Tuesday’s meeting could hand down a more definitive decision.
“I don’t know which direction it’s going to head,” Schumacher said, “but what I do know is that a council who is consistently split 2-2 is not giving its staff or its community a clear message about how we want to protect our community.”
The meeting begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
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