Mendocino Restaurant Adds $5 Fee for Customers Wearing Masks

Fiddleheads Cafe owner has not been shy about criticizing COVID-19 restrictions

Courtesy of Chris Castleman

Wear a mask, pay a penalty. That's the unusual message a Mendocino restaurant owner is offering his customers.

Signs posted in the windows and at the register of Fiddleheads Cafe on Lansing Street read: "$5 FEE ADDED TO ORDERS PLACED WHILE WEARING A FACE MASK." And in the fine print below that message, it adds that anyone overheard boasting about receiving a vaccine would get another $5 surcharge.

Owner Chris Castleman told NBC Bay Area some customers have paid the $5 fee while others have expressed shock and outrage. He says the "fee" ultimately is an optional donation as it goes to charities assisting domestic abuse victims.

"Customers either love it or hate it," he said via email. "There are people who refuse to pay it; I guess a $5 donation to charity is too much for them. Others have gladly paid it knowing that it goes to a good cause. I don't force anyone to pay, I give them the freedom of choice, which seems to be a foreign concept in these parts of the country."

The CDC says fully vaccinated people can ditch the face coverings. However, the California mask mandate won't change until the state officially reopens on June 15, 2021. We show you when you'll need to mask up in the Bay Area and California until then. If you're fully vaccinated, check out how the mask guidelines change for you after California reopens on June 15.

The latest signs shouldn't come as a surprise as Castleman is not shy about expressing his political views and has previously posted several highly political messages railing against the pandemic restrictions.

Another sign posted at the restaurant in April read: "THROW YOUR MASK(S) IN OUR TRASH BIN AND RECEIVE 50% OFF YOUR ORDER."

Yet another sign that has since been removed read: "GET YOUR FREE COVID-19 VACCINE CARD HERE!" Alongside that message was a photocopy of what appeared to be an official COVID-19 vaccination record card.

In June 2020, Castleman temporarily closed the restaurant and boarded it up after receiving a notice of a $10,000 citation from county health officials, according to the Press Democrat. A message written on the plywood read: “Closed by order of Mendocino County.”

Mendocino County is in the yellow tier for COVID-19 reopening, meaning restaurants can operate indoors at a maximum of 50% capacity, and masks are required when diners are not eating or drinking.

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