Carlsbad City Council to Consider Tougher Enforcement of COVID-19 Health Order on Businesses

Carlsbad leaders called for a special meeting after a number of businesses have been openly defying state and county COVID-19 restrictions

Al's Cafe in Carlsbad

The city of Carlsbad has called a special council meeting in response to a growing number of local businesses willfully defying state and county public health orders, some of which have already been issued cease-and-desist orders.

The meeting is set for Tuesday at 3 p.m. and can be watched on the city's website.

“We can’t will this virus to go away. We all have to step forward and sacrifice a little in order for us to get back to a semblance of normalcy," said Carlsbad District 1 Councilmember Cori Schumacher.

Schumacher requested the special meeting in a letter to Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall on Dec. 26.

“Two weeks ago, restaurants in the district I represent willfully violated the public health order leading to 17 cease and desist orders issued by San Diego County between December 10 and December 15 in District 1,” wrote Schumacher.

Carlsbad is considering cracking down on businesses violating COVID-19 health restrictions. NBC 7's Audra Stafford reports.

On Monday, one of those businesses that received a cease-and-desist order, Garcia’s Mexican Cuisine on State Street, remained open and its manager said he had no intention to close.

Garcia’s is one of a handful of restaurants defying the order in a show of protest. Al's Café is doing the same.

“We’re not the super spreaders. We’re safe. We keep people distanced. We’re doing what they originally told us to do,” said Al Wanamaker, who's owned Al’s Café for 30 years.

“I’ve got employees that have been with me 12, 15 years. These employees, they’re not wealthy. They need a job. I need a job,” said Wanamaker.

Councilmember Schumacher concedes, throughout the pandemic, a short-handed council has been split on enforcement policy.

Now, a new five-member council will consider a more aggressive approach.

“We’ve seen the hand-off approach again lead to increased willful violations and so now it’s time for council to step forward and give very clear direction on a  hands-on approach in order for us to bring these numbers that are increasing down,” said Schumacher.

The council will decide on whether to authorize local authorities to issue citations and fines, bypassing the D.A.’s office.

The council was deadlocked 2-2 on a similar proposal in July 2020.

The council will also consider adopting an emergency order forcing businesses to comply with public health orders.

A spokesperson for the city said the city has sent nine reports to the District Attorney for prosecution.

The city provided this statement to NBC 7.

“The City of Carlsbad Police Department continues to respond to every report of a business or organization operating outside the health orders. The department is collaborating with the County of San Diego, which has issued Cease and Desist orders. Also through the county, the Police Department  has submitted reports to the District Attorney’s Office for consideration of further action.  Officers are out in the community daily promoting awareness of the health order and handing out masks.”

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