Our View: It’s past time to stop tiptoeing around noncompliant businesses

Nevada County likes to tiptoe around uncomfortable situations.

But this week, finally, it took action against businesses that refused to comply with the governor’s order about indoor dining, and yanked their food permits.

Whether this stops certain businesses from operating remains to be seen.

County officials on Tuesday served notice of violations at Sergio’s Caffe, Old Town Cafe and Friar Tuck’s. These notices effectively revoke a business’ food permit. If they continue to operate, they face a minimum daily fine of $25, which double each day, up to a maximum daily fine of $1,000.

That makes talk of “constitutional” rights costly, and the price is only going up.

The county has been overly conscious of its public image when it comes to the issue of punishing noncompliant businesses. Officials have come close to coddling business owners who outright refuse to prohibit indoor dining at their establishments or require their employees to wear masks. Instead the county has taken a different stance for the most part, seeking to educate and inform.

This isn’t bad, but there comes a time for some when education doesn’t work.

That means the tiptoes have since changed to a foot coming down, and it’s about time.

Some businesses chose to set themselves up for a battle against the county. What they’ll get are fines doubled each day they opt to disobey. And possibly more, if an urgency ordinance is passed Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

This isn’t about liberty, or anyone’s rights being stripped away. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and parts of our populace seemingly can’t grasp the necessary steps that must be taken to defeat it.

You might think we’re safer than other spots in the state. We’ve only had one death here. We’re certainly not dealing with the over 1,500 cases in Placer County, or 13 deaths they’ve had. And we’re nowhere close to the almost 160,000 cases Los Angeles has seen.

We’re fortunate to live in this rural area. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune, and it certainly doesn’t mean we can let the situation grow worse by letting businesses do what they want.

When that happens, government steps in. No one can truthfully claim it took a heavy handed approach. Everyone was smiles and discussion for days, even weeks.

Now reality has started to settle in. All businesses, and the people who patronize them, should take note. This is how we’re going to get through COVID-19 — by acting responsibly now. That’s what will lead our businesses to reopen, and stay open, in the long run.

Grass Valley has proven there are workarounds. It closed part of Mill Street to vehicle traffic, opening up spots outdoors for dining. Nevada City should take note, and see which of its businesses could benefit from long-term road closures that open up space to pedestrians and restaurants.

Otherwise, it’s going to fall on the local government to punish, not help, those who violate the rules.

If anything, the county has been too lenient with those who flagrantly disobey them.

For example, county officials are now trying to trace those who attended an estimated 150-person, three-day dance festival over the July Fourth weekend. That festival led to officials linking two positive COVID-19 cases to it.

And who knows how many more are waiting in the wings.

There’s little the county can do about this large gathering after the fact. However, what it can do — just like it can do with businesses that fail to comply with state mandates — is become more proactive, and stop tiptoeing around.

The county’s public health officer in a news release said “It takes a village,” meaning every person and business must play their part for everyone to stay open and protect each other.

The sentiment is nice, but we’re long past the point where cliches are going to do us good. People are sick and they are dying. Those who refuse to comply could use some public shaming.

Our county needs to be more transparent about those who break the rules. Put their names front and center in press releases. Post them on the county website. Place prominent signs at storefronts.

Pass ordinances if necessary creating penalties for large public gatherings, and advertise those penalties. Ensure that our community knows the steps that our officials are willing to take to beat this pandemic by taking those very steps when called for.

And start walking quickly toward this resolution, with a strong, steady gait, instead of tiptoeing around it.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from , as well as informed community members. Contact the board at [email protected]

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