Costa Mesa bar proprietor is 1st in O.C. to face prison cost for flouting Covid limits – Orange County Register
The owner of a bar in Costa Mesa, accused of repeated emergency response violations, is the first Orange County business owner to be prosecuted for operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roland Michael Barrera, owner of the Westend Bar, is exposed to an offense in which he violates and neglects a lawful order and regulation. Luiza Giulietta Mauro, a bar manager, has been charged with a crime of resisting a police officer, court records show.
Police, law enforcement officers, and state alcohol control officers have made “multiple” visits to Westend Bar since an emergency order went into effect on Nov. 19, requiring non-essential businesses to close between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM, Orange County Attorney’s statement.
The Westend Bar accommodated 50 to 70 guests “several times” without having to distance themselves socially or to wear face coverings, according to the public prosecutor.
They also claim that Mauro grabbed a uniformed police officer at around 11 p.m. on December 12 to prevent him from entering the bar.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said the Westend Bar has actually expanded its activities and become a nightclub-style environment that would not be acceptable even without the current health restrictions.
“We are at a point where we are in a public health crisis that is likely verging on a catastrophe,” said Foley. “The days of continuing education of what people already know and deliberately oppose are over.
“It was pretty obvious that all their public health assignments were just nose-thinking,” she added to the Westend Bar.
Nobody answered a call in the bar on Thursday afternoon and a voicemail box was full. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Barrera or Mauro had hired lawyers to represent them.
The ongoing curfew and closure have sparked protests from many restaurant and bar owners. Some have openly opposed the mandates while others have voiced or voiced their concerns on social media. For some of the business owners it has become a protest while others say it is simply a struggle for survival.
DA officials said they have chosen to focus on an “education and outreach philosophy” regarding the health care contracts and declined to bring charges against Orange County companies allegedly alleged to be on nearly two dozen cases they would have operated illegally in the middle of the pandemic.
However, District Attorney Todd Spitzer said it was unacceptable for the Westend Bar to “repeatedly” break the rules and continue to operate “without attempting to take mitigating measures designed to save lives.
“This is a company that has been given opportunity for opportunity to take corrective action, and has failed,” Spitzer said in a statement. “This apparent disregard for local and state health regulations is a slap in the face for hardworking business owners who continue to try to do what is right during these extremely difficult times.”
According to Foley, it harms companies that are “good citizens and care about our community and their employees” to allow companies to go against health regulations.
She added that she was also concerned about reports of local bars and restaurants that may be planning to hold New Year celebrations amid the pandemic.
“There are a growing number of Orange County companies that have chosen to know more than public health scientists,” said Foley.
Barrera (47) from Costa Mesa and Mauro (26) from Huntington Beach face a prison sentence of up to one year if convicted. However, prosecutors said they were confident that if there were no new violations, the case could be resolved through “education rather than jail time”.
Her indictment is scheduled for June 22nd. With the courts closed to the public and judicial proceedings largely on hold due to the pandemic, many hearings are being delayed.
Barrera, who also owns the Maison nightclub on Costa Mesa, was fined $ 379,000 in 2015 for his role in attracting investors to a $ 18 million Ponzi program.
A few years earlier Barrera was serving as a city advisor at one point, helping entertain a Costa Mesa 60th anniversary celebration that was significantly over budget, partly due to excessive spending on music acts. The city of Maison later closed briefly for illegal concerts and construction work.
While other Orange County companies faced no criminal charges during the pandemic shutdown, at least one restaurant – Basilicos Pasta e Vino in Huntington Beach – was accused by the California Department of Alcohol Control as a “disorderly building” policy of not allowing employees not to wear face covers wear.