An 18-month-long battle between a Northern California restaurant owner and El Dorado County over COVID-related health orders continues to escalate, even as the officials across the country begin to roll back mask mandates and vaccination requirements. Per a Sacramento Bee report, Apple Bistro, a cafe in Placerville, is refusing to close despite being served with a court order to shut down operations on February 18 due to its defiance of the county’s health orders. It’s one of a number of restaurants across the state now facing legal ramifications for failing to adhere to state and local health orders during the pandemic.
The restaurant, which is located near Apple Hill off Highway 50 on the way to Tahoe, had its health permit pulled back in summer 2020 after the restaurant violated several COVID-related orders, such as a mandate requiring staff wear masks. The county then sued the restaurant in November 2021, before ultimately seeking an injunction in El Dorado County Superior Court last week ordering the restaurant stop operations immediately.
But owner Jennette Waldow continues to ignore the county’s demands, according to posts on the restaurant’s social media accounts. On February 23 — a week after the injunction — a Facebook post on the Apple Bistro page assured customers the restaurant will be open “tomorrow and every day moving forward.” The post goes on the say that the restaurant has filed a complaint in response to the injunction for “unlawful due process;” the county, however, maintains the order is “effective immediately and remains in place until trial in the lawsuit,” the Bee reports. A trial date has not yet been set.
“Please do not call the Bistro for any information regarding this,” the post also states.
In order for the restaurant to legally resume operations by regaining its health permit, Waldow will have to pay a number of fines, including a potential fine of $500 for each day the restaurant has operated without a permit — which would total some $250,000, the Bee calculated. The restaurant has reportedly also failed to pay a $108,000 fine levied by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OHSA, for putting its workers at risk during the pandemic.
Over the past year and half, Waldow has been a vocal critic of county and state health orders related to the pandemic. A Sacramento Bee report from January 2021 describes one sign posted around the restaurant’s building that reportedly read, “As free Americans we will not comply with unconstitutional medical or political mandates that violate our basic rights!” In a video on the Apple Bistro website from 2021, Waldow calls the Cal/OHSA fine “illegal.”
The restaurant is one of a handful of California businesses now facing legal and financial fallout for refusing to adhere to COVID-related orders. In Long Beach, the owner of the Restauration restaurant, which closed in April according to a Long Beach Press-Telegram report, was criminally charged with 20 misdemeanors after refusing to close her restaurant; she’s now being ordered to pay some $5,000 in fines and complete 40 hours of community service in exchange for having the case dismissed, the Mercury News reports.