Santa Clara County Cracking Down on Businesses Violating Health Orders

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Santa Clara County is cracking down on businesses violating new COVID public health orders, a move that comes after supervisors voted last week to fine businesses that don't comply. 

Small businesses struggling to survive however, say the fines are too high. 

The owner of First Street Coffee House in Gilroy says she is doing her best to follow the health orders, but the county says she hasn't done enough and now she's facing $750 in fines.

The county served up the warning Friday, saying in a letter that the owner violated several public health orders and it gives her 72 hours to fix them.

The county investigated after customers and others reported violations, specifically the coffee shop is accused of having tables within 6 feet of each other outside, not posting the correct health order guidelines in the front window and not requiring customers to wear a mask. 

“We feel strongly we don’t want to violate American with Disabilities Act or Hippa and essentially it’s our position that we’re not in the business of getting people to wear masks. We are focused on providing a healthy business,” said owner Jackie Gartman. 

She says she even offers free masks to customers. Gartman admits navigating ever-changing public health orders is a challenge and says with business down at least 50%, she simply can't afford the fines.

“Here we go with fines after the small businesses have been shut down for months. How are they going to make it through this?” she said.

But other customers support fining repeat offenders to help fight COVID-19.

“There has to be a way to enforce these new rules,” said Barbara Bohlig.

Gartman says she has fixed all the problems including the issue with tables.

She cant move them because they’re bolted down so she’s put up these signs on every other table to keep people apart.

On Monday, an environmental health specialist returned to the coffee shop. Gartman says she passed the inspection so it appears she will avoid the fines. So far, in less than one week three Santa Clara County businesses have received similar warnings.

“I think it's unfair businesses are put in this position on top of everything,” said Gartman.

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