The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office has filed four criminal charges against owner of the Old Town Orcutt wine bar allegedly breaching a public health order during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Former San Luis Obispo Police Officer Kurt Hixenbaugh, 49, is charged with two counts of breaching a home stay order and failing to file two counts of public health, according to the criminal complaint filed March 26 in Santa Maria. Superior court.
Some of these relate to the public health directive issued on December 11, 2020, while others relate to the orders issued in January.
The California Department of Alcohol Control recommended the bill be filed after investigating Vino et Amicis and citing businesses.
In March, the county reported that a few enforcement actions were the result of thousands of complaints alleging violations of public health directives, and response teams typically work to provide Knowledge to businesses
The criminal complaint alleges that the owner of the wine bar had violated a public health order for several days.
“We did not receive any complaints about the similar behavior of someone who refused to comply when the ABC or other authorities ordered the closure,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney John Savernoch.
This is the first criminal complaint related to a violation of a public health order filed by the county against a business. But there have been civil lawsuits against gyms that have refused to close earlier because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Savrnoch.
“Ultimately, our goal with this is just for businesses to follow along,” said Savrnoch.
In San Luis Obispo County, no business owner is subject to criminal charges for violating COVID-19 restrictions, but two breweries and wineries were cited by ABC in February. The city of San Luis Obispo also issued at least $ 16,000 in administrative fines to four businesses as of December, including local gym chains Kennedy Club Fitness, which lost $ 8,000 in a month. February
Hixenbaugh is co-owner of Vino et Amicis and is not shy about opposing the directive.
In early December, he posted a video on YouTube titled “We’re still open,” announcing plans to ignore the stay-at-home orders that had to be shut down. But pledged to enforce safety measures such as masks and social exclusion. The stay-at-home order, which goes into effect in December and January, requires most of the bars to shut down indoor and outdoor.
“We will resist that order. We do not agree with it. We think it is time for people to start taking their stand and take their stand. We are going to do that and I hope others will follow.”He said in the video, which lasted more than six minutes.
He said COVID-19 was “real” and dangerous for some people and was contagious.
“When I said we were going to resist the order, it didn’t mean we just pack the place and have a good time and not careful,” he said, adding that he intended to limit capacity.
“We are in a lot of pain, and our business and our employees have suffered a lot since COVID-19 began. We did everything we could, we followed all the rules, followed all directions. Not all businesses survive. Many have failed There are some of us who are still hanging out. And with the latest order from the governor, it is again pulling the carpet from beneath us, ”he said in a video posted on social media.
In February, he posted another video stating that the beer called F- COVID has also been renamed Defiance, the title of the video.
“The boots on our neck from Sacramento are killing our business and we have to stand up for that. We need to get together and stand up to that. It’s a little encouragement to a friend of the business owner, ”he said.
Hixenbaugh was received a letter to appear on April 29 for Santa Maria’s courtroom hearing before Judge Gustavo Lavayen.
On April 1, the former San Luis Obispo Police Department Sergeant and The self-described “law and order” said his actions were to help his small business.
“We are still here. We received some fines from ABC and we will pay them and will continue to do so, ”he said, adding that he expected the consequences of his actions.
A criminal case separate from ABC’s action in connection with a wine bar’s alcohol license.
If convicted, Hixenbaugh faces up to six months in prison and / or a $ 1,000 fine for each misdemeanor.
Hixenbaugh served as a San Luis Obispo police officer from 2002 to 2018, according to city records.
Hixenbaugh, a conservative commentator on Facebook in 2017, highlighted the controversy involving his colleague Sgt. Chad Pfarr, who said in a New Times article that some rape victims “thought” the report. Rape after drinking too much alcohol
Commenting on the San Luis Obispo Police Department Hixenbaugh’s Facebook page defending Pfarr, calling him “an outstanding, ethical and professional police officer”.
“However, the media has a proven track record of taking police statements out of context and or using parts of the text for their own distorted agendas,” wrote Hixenbaugh.