ESCONDIDO — The Escondido City Council met on Wednesday, Jan. 13, and heard several public comments asking the council to enforce COVID-19 health guidelines at local restaurants and eateries. The council also approved a zoning change, a permit for a gas station and a time adjustment for council meetings.
San Diego County, along with several other Southern California counties, is weeks into its latest state-mandated lockdown. Businesses across the county have been forced to temporarily close down due to the critical situation in hospitals.
These businesses, which include restaurants, bars, salons, and gyms, are supposed to remain closed until the order is lifted. Multiple businesses, however, including several in Escondido, have chosen to defy the stay-at-home order.
The Koffie Co. on Grand Avenue has been outspoken about defying shutdown orders, even announcing on the coffee shop’s Instagram explaining that they intend to remain open.
Hunsaker at Vincent’s has also decided to continue operating outdoors a couple days a week, along with Tony Pepperoni Pizzeria, which has kept its doors open for both indoor and outdoor dining.
Several other restaurants have since followed suit, prompting county supervisors to adopt stricter enforcement measures on Jan. 12.
At the Jan. 13 council meeting, Escondido councilmembers heard one public comment condemning the Koffie Co. and Tony Pepperoni Pizzeria specifically, claiming that the two establishments have consistently been packed indoors, with many people not wearing masks or social distancing.
Another comment criticized Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso and the Escondido Police Department for allegedly failing to wear masks.
“When are we going to get any enforcement on health regulations? … Every day I see tons of people at places like the Burger Construction Co. going about business as if there’s no pandemic. The patio is crowded and there’s no social distancing. … Our small businesses would get a lot more support if people felt safe going to them,” said another Escondido resident.
The council asked staff to bring back more information on this subject.
“We had a lot of comments tonight about the enforcement of the restaurants and the rules — we can’t talk about it because it’s not agendized — but it’s not as simple as people think,” Mayor Paul McNamara said. “So, I’m going to ask the city attorney to put together a brief for us to kind of explain the complexity of the issue for, hopefully, our next council meeting.”
Councilmembers then discussed and approved a zoning change from light industrial to commercial general for a property at 900 W. Mission Ave. to allow for the development of a new gas station/convenience store that would also sell alcohol.
They also reviewed the starting time for council meetings, per Deputy Mayor Mike Morasco’s request, and voted 3-2 to move the starting time back to 5 p.m. from 6 p.m.