Aloha Coffee in Monterey has been issued a number of warnings from the Monterey County Environmental Health Bureau for defying health guidelines, which eventually led to their health permit being revoked.
Now, the business owner, Richard Dunnuck, said he plans to sue Monterey County for $10 million for infringing on his rights.
“This is a court case, so it’s got to go to court. It’s my case, there is no case against me. This is a case I’m bringing against them. So, there are no charges there,” said Dunnuck.
It’s a case, the owner of Aloha Coffee said, is happening due to the health department imposing on his constitutional rights to wear a mask. While state guidelines are requiring people to wear face coverings in public, Dunnuck said the way he interprets the law is he cannot discriminate against his staff or customers for their reasoning of not wearing one. Although a guidance isn’t a written law, officials from the health department explain it holds a similar power.
“That’s the other thing where people get confused is because of the word ‘guidance’,” explained Ric Encarnacion, assistant bureau chief for Monterey County Environmental Health Bureau. “The industry guidance means for that specific industry it must be followed. In this case, because restaurants are regulated by the environmental health bureau, they’re required to follow what the state is calling COVID guidance. In that guidance, it states that the food facility, the operators, must take all reasonable means to inform the public.”
When asked further about the case, Dunnuck had this to say:
“From my attorney,” Dunnuck began. “I’m constitutionally compliant and it’s not my issue that they are not. We will prevail in court.”
And on Christmas Eve, business was in full swing at the coffee shop despite not having a permit. Customers tricked in, everyone including staff were wearing masks, but without that permit, Dunnuck could potentially lose his business for good.
“We are following up with the county authorities, including county council and we’ll coordinate with the city of Monterey for next steps,” explained Encarnacion, who added their efforts are to prevent further spread of COVID -19. Especially after seeing the spike in cases after the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s likely Christmas could bring those same numbers. Encarnacion said the goal is to prevent an increase in cases anywhere they can.
It’s unclear when Dunnuck may take the county to court, but as of now, the business owner is facing multiple fines adding up to nearly $3,700. However, he said he’s thankful for those who are supporting him.
“To all my customers, thank you for your loyalty. Like I said, we love providing the healthy options and a great atmosphere. Of course, it’s all about health. We want everyone healthy, that’s what we’re all about is helping each other and helping the community,” said Dunnuck.