Crowd rallies outside Agoura Hills sports bar open for dining in defiance of state order

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Most restaurants across Southern California were void of diners Monday night after a new state order took effect — but a few flouting the rules were bustling with customers.

A ban on dining at restaurants took effect Sunday night across most of the state, triggered in 23 Southern and Central California counties because the regions’ intensive care unit capacities fell below 15%. Several Bay Area counties also chose to adopt new regulations before ICU capacity dropped below the threshold.

Most establishments have shifted to operating only for takeout and delivery.

But outside Cronies Sports Grill in Agoura Hills Monday night, dozens were rallying in support of the establishment defying health orders, chanting, “No science, no peace.”

Dave Foldes, co-owner of the sports bar in the Agoura Meadows Shopping Center on Kanan Road, said he feels the food service industry is being unfairly targeted “without any science.”

“I would shut it down if it was a significant risk,” he said. “But I feel as though, why are you allowed to go to Home Depot, why are you allowed to go to Target?”

But according to Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, the lack of mask use at restaurants makes the data “crystal clear at every single every single level that you look at it.”

“I don’t think there’s any debate that, where people are in close proximity with other people not in their household, not wearing a mask and mingling for extended periods of time talking, singing, sharing — there’s an increased risk of transmission,” Ferrer said Monday.

She added that no experts would say “there’s no risk of transmission just because you’re outside,” mentioning the White House Rose Garden gathering that President Donald Trump and several others attended shortly before testing positive for coronavirus.

Foldes says the county public health department has fined him for staying open and warned that if he doesn’t shut down, his utilities could be shut off. But he says Cronies will stay open as long as it can.

Among those protesting outside the bar Monday night was Moorpark resident Brittany Enneking.

“We came out to support Cronies for staying open because we don’t take our freedom for granted,” she told KTLA.

In Orange County Monday night, there was standing room only at Basilico’s Pasta e Vino in Huntingon Beach, with a line of people waiting for tables as dining areas were full both indoors and outdoors.

Tony Roman, the owner of the restaurant at the corner of Brookhurst Street and Hamilton Avenue, called Newsom a “mini-tyrant” and said the violation of rules isn’t just about keeping the business afloat or providing income to employees.

“Our stand has been about liberty and freedom,” he said. “And when you take that stand is bigger than yourself and it’s non-negotiable.”

When KTLA approached the restaurant’s host Monday night, he politely asked the reporter to take off her mask. On its Facebook page, the restaurant has been vocal against face coverings and coronavirus regulations.

Basilico’s policy of allowing employees to not wear masks has put it at risk of losing its liquor license, according to the Orange County Register. Roman said Monday the eatery is still fighting the state in court on that matter.

But Roman said he doesn’t plan to alter his business plan based on state or local rules.

“If there was a fine every day, we would take it,” he said. “I wouldn’t budge.”

For his part, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes has said he doesn’t plan to enforce the rules. Deputies will be dispatched to calls related to potential criminal acts and to protect life and property — not to solely enforce mask-wearing or these latest stay-at-home orders.

“Compliance with health orders is a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement,” Barnes said in a statement over the weekend.

However, it’s unclear what sort of action the restaurant may face from the state and county public health departments.

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