County Targets ‘Frequent Flyer’ COVID Offenders

22 Bars and Restaurants and 5 Gyms Put on Notice

Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Santa Barbara County officials announced Tuesday they’re ready to step up enforcement efforts against the county’s “frequent flyer” offenders of COVID-19 restrictions.

Kelly Hubbard, director of the Office of Emergency Management. | Credit: Len Wood / Santa Maria Times

Kelly Hubbard, director of the Office of Emergency Management, told the Board of Supervisors that while communication and education will remain the tools agencies use most to bring rule-breaking businesses into compliance, she and her colleagues are “currently exploring actions against some of our more egregious and repeat offenders.”

Restaurants, bars, and other food facilities are the source of copious public complaints, with 764 logged since last March, Hubbard explained. In most cases, a direct visit by staff is enough to convince a business to clean up their act. But some, she said, continue to flout health orders. The county has now issued formal “Notice to Comply” letters to 22 food facilities and conducted two administrative hearings. The Independent has requested the names of those 22 businesses.

Gyms remain among the “major offenders,” Hubbard went on, with one “unfair competition” injunction filed thus far and five more cases referred to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. The Independent has also asked for the names of these locations. Both requests were made by the paper on January 20 through the California Public Records Act. The county has so far failed to provide a complete response.

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Of the nearly 2,000 total complaints on the books, 43 percent originated from within the county’s unincorporated jurisdiction, Hubbard said, with 26 percent coming from the City of Santa Barbara. Only three administrative citations have been issued to individuals who broke quarantine rules. All three resided in Isla Vista.

Supervisor Bob Nelson wondered if the Public Health Department had actively connected any of the county’s known outbreaks to the violators. Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said they had not ― it’s up to owners to self-report outbreaks at their businesses, she said ― but the department could look into it. Nelson urged her to do so, noting “It would be helpful to get people to comply to have a case that actually showed some connectivity, instead of a theoretical connectivity.”

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