Business / Economy

San Juan Bautista council mulls closing bar over occupancy violations

Customers at Una Mas Saloon were reportedly shoulder-to-shoulder on Memorial Day, but owner says that’s false.

San Juan Bautista is in a dispute with Una Mas Saloon over alleged violations of the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. The city contends bars are not allowed to operate at this time and that Una Mas violated occupancy capacity and social distancing guidelines. Una Mas owner Yolanda Torres denies those claims.

The San Juan Bautista City Council had an action item to consider closing the bar on its May 26 meeting agenda, but it was changed to a discussion item because the city must notify the business and hold public hearings, City Manager Don Reynolds said. He added that Una Mas reopened on May 20.

The city received reports that bar customers were shoulder-to-shoulder on Memorial Day, Reynolds said, noting that the number of people in the establishment could possibly violate the fire code’s maximum occupancy limit. Torres said that was false and that only groups of people who came in together sat together. 

State guidance allows bars to open if they offer sit-in, dine-in meals either by contracting with another vendor or preparing the food themselves (Una Mas is doing the former). It also states alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal. Other guidance measures for bars include:

  • Having a workplace specific plan that includes identifying infected employees
  • Having an infection prevention plan
  • Providing employee safety training
  • Providing employee temperature or symptom screening before every shift
  • Implementing measures for social distancing by having at least six feet between different parties
  • Reducing maximum occupancy based on establishment size
  • Keeping bar areas closed to customers

When Councilman Dan De Vries asked Torres what she would do to adhere to guidelines going forward, Torres said she would remove the pool table and possibly hand out numbers to ensure her business remained within the allowed occupancy limit.

City attorney Deborah Mall said San Juan Bautista does not have the ability to enforce any Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) laws or health permits, so the only option would be to declare the business a public nuisance. However, the city has no grounds to declare Una Mas a public nuisance at this point, she said.

With San Benito County being one of the first in the state to allow dine-in services, Mall said she has no other cases to follow as an example. 

“I would really encourage you guys to direct all your comments, to be the squeaky wheel with the ABC and make them go in and enforce this regulation,” Mall said. “I would also caution the business owner that there are huge penalties in you losing your ABC license and that’s not where you want to go. I think voluntary compliance is the way to go at this point.”

 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.