Government / Politics

SJB Council adopts COVID-19 enforcement ordinance

City can now use fines to enforce mask ordinance, declare businesses a public nuisance and revoke licenses.

The San Juan Bautista City Council unanimously adopted an emergency ordinance on Dec. 18 that allows the city to fine businesses and its operators in an effort to have the community abide by the regional stay-at-home order that went into effect earlier this month. The ordinance, effective immediately, also allows the city to revoke business licenses.

City Attorney Deborah Mall said the ordinance boils down to allowing the city to enforce its face covering ordinance, with fines of $100, $250 and $500 depending on occurrence. She also said the ordinance allows the city to declare a business a public nuisance for being out of compliance with the stay-at-home requirements. This includes a $1,000 fine for the business and/or the business operator for every day it is out of compliance. If that doesn’t work, the city has the right to revoke a business license.

The ordinance expires when the stay-at-home order is rescinded.

Newly seated Councilman Scott Freels questioned if businesses already operating out of compliance would cease their operations even without a license. Mall said while the city might not have ability to lock doors, the $1,000 fine should be a strong incentive for businesses to remain in compliance.

Hollister Councilman Rolan Resendiz spoke during the meeting and commended San Juan Bautista for taking the lead with its emergency ordinance. The Hollister City Council voted down a similar ordinance on Dec. 17 with a 3-2 vote.

“It’s funny that you guys are a small community and a small council, but you have been such a mighty one especially when it comes to getting ahead of COVID-19,” Resendiz said. He pointed out how San Juan Bautista was the first jurisdiction within the county to implement the parklet program downtown and to adopt a face covering mandate.

City Manager Don Reynolds said the San Benito County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider a similar ordinance in January.

When asked about the status of Una Mas Saloon, which has operated out of compliance with state guidelines, Reynolds said the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control was building a case against the business in order to get it to comply with guidelines.


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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.