Vaccine opponents urge restaurant owners to break mandate

Opponents of the North Olympic Peninsula’s Sept. 4 COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination mandate are offering to pay fines of restaurant owners who defy the health order, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“Restaurants have contacted us concerned because they were uncomfortable with the interaction,” Berry said in a series of text messages last week.

Some opponents also have been rude and verbally aggressive with restaurant staff who have had to enforce the mandate, said personnel at some eateries and Marc Abshire, Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Mandate opponents have gone door-to-door in Port Angeles and Sequim, according to business owners and Clallam County commissioner Mark Ozias. They have said they will cover penalties for violating mask health orders, too, the entrepreneurs said.

They include Bob Stokes, whose gallery and entertainment venue, Studio Bob, is in downtown Port Angeles.

Stokes said a woman approached him on Sept. 14 while he stood on the sidewalk near his business.

“She said they are getting a campaign together and doing a fundraising program for any bar and restaurant who wants to fight this mandate, that they will pay their fines,” Stokes said.

Stokes said she offered to pay fines for violating the COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates. He said he responded that getting fined would compromise his liquor license.

“I don’t want that black mark,” he said.

Mike French, Port Angeles City Council Position 2 incumbent candidate and owner of First Street Haven restaurant in Port Angeles, said a woman dropped off a two-page flier at his restaurant last week when he was not there.

“A class action lawsuit will be coming soon,” it says.

“You have civil rights. Segregation and Discrimination is against the law.

“Don’t let bullying and intimidation control you. Text to Facebook group Port Angeles Voice if you are harassed. “

Becky Penrose, administrator of Port Angeles Voice, did not respond to a Facebook message for comment.

The flier included extensive text from the Revised Code of Washington on “Freedom from discrimination-Declaration of civil rights,” and “Denial of civil rights-Terms defined.”

French said he had no intention of violating the health order.

“The mandate keeps us safe,” he said.

Lotus Rose Massage Therapy, next door to First Street Haven, accepts all clients “mask on or mask off,” according to a large sign in front of the business.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s mask mandate, “Washington Secretary of Health Order 20-03: Statewide Face Coverings,” which was amended in June, says “Every person in Washington State must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when they are in a place where people from outside their household are present or in a place that is generally accessible to people from outside their household.” Among the exceptions are ” while obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face covering.”

Lotus Rose owner Lindsay Rieker was offered the opportunity to provide a statement Saturday but declined unless the Peninsula Daily News guaranteed it would print the entire statement as news content before she provided it. She also wanted to review questions in advance and to record the interview for her use.

French’s opponent, John Madden, last week urged restaurants to violate the vaccination mandate.

At a Nor’Wester Rotary election forum on Sept. 17 via Zoom, Madden spoke against the vaccination health order, calling it “government overreach” and dictatorial.

“You can’t have a dictator telling everybody all the way down the line exactly how they’re going to act,” he said.

“I am against the mandate, so are so many people, and we’re making our distaste for this known in public,” he said.

He said on his Elect John Madden Facebook page on Sept. 8 that he planned to visit businesses the next day to support them in violating the health order.

“We will be canvassing Restaurants tomorrow morning to let the owners know that we are behind them for ignoring the illegal ‘Mandates,’” he said on the page.

“We then plan to go door knocking. Come on out!”

Madden did not return calls for comment.

He said at the forum that he has had COVID-19 and is “still being discriminated against.”

‘Mandates are not law’

Ozias said businesses in downtown Sequim contacted him last week with concerns about a woman passing out packets from Snohomish-based The Constitutional Law Group, “volunteer Patriots” who provide “assistance of counsel,” according to its website, constitutionallawgroup.us.

“We are oppressed by criminal syndicates, masquerading as government,” the website says.

The packet claims, “Mandates are not law!!!” and offers signs for mandate scofflaws that say, “Welcome! We are a Constitutionally compliant business. By law, we don’t follow any of the governor’s, mayor’s, health department’s, or other government agency orders or suggestions pertaining to social distancing, mask wearing, or Vax Id/Passports.”

A message sent to an email referral in the packet, clallamfreedom@gmail.com, was not answered Friday.

“The information being distributed is not in line with the law and serves to confuse people and does not, at least in my view, doesn’t serve to support the business community nor the public health of our community,” Ozias said.

French said vaccination opponents “are aggressively taking a posture at restaurants against these mandates.”

Carmen Dalgardno, a server at Shirley’s Cafe in Port Angeles, said last week a woman became upset the week of Sept. 5 over being told, as all customers are, “we need you to wear a mask, please, and then we’re going to ask if you’re going to dine in, or you’re to-go,” Dalgardno said.

“She just said you’re violating my rights, it’s discrimination,” Dalgardno said.

“We’ve heard it all.

“We were all going to get sued. She was going to sue all of us.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, I’m sorry you’re upset, we can offer you take-out,’ and she just wouldn’t stop. And we finally said, you need to go, have a nice day, we have customers eating,” Dalgardno said.

“That’s what we do when customers get frustrated.”

The man with her called Dalgardno “childish and rude,” Dalgardno said.

“He called us names, and I said no, we asked you to leave because you’re embarrassing yourself, which he was,” she recalled.

Dalgardno posted a complaint about Madden on his Elect John Madden Facebook page.

“Had the situation been presented differently we would have been more than happy to have an adult conversation,” she said in part. … “Furthermore this is a privately owned business and we do have the right to refuse service. Mandates or otherwise. We didn’t want your help nor were we asking!”

Others chimed in, with Madden saying in response to one critic: “I have been very supportive of Shirley’s since the beginning of this COVID attack, and they were extremely rude and childish to us today.”

Shirley’s owner Jim Mackrow said his business was down about 30 percent for a Friday due to the health orders but expects the restaurant to survive.

“It is hard to enforce it as an owner and a worker. Putting the burden on us is difficult,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if I agree with it or not, it’s what we need to do.”

Customers overwhelmingly support the health order, Mackrow said.

“A lot of people are frustrated by it but don’t blame us,” he added.

Abshire said most restaurant owners appreciate the vaccination mandate because it’s keeping them and their employees safe.

Contrary to the notion of businesses feeling intimidated by the mandate, some restaurant customers opposed to the mandate have acted like bullies, Abshire said.

“I have heard of customers bullying restaurant owners and employees, calling them names and being mean to them for just offering (that they) sit outside,” he said.

”If everyone would get vaccinated, there wouldn’t be a mandate. There wouldn’t be a need for one.”

Vaccine mandate being enforced

Restaurant owners who violate Dr. Allison Berry’s vaccination mandate are given 72 hours to comply before their health permits can be revoked by the Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services, she said.

Berry, the agency director and health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said on Sept. 17 that owners with revoked permits are referred to the state Department of Labor & Industries, which can levy fines.

“I do not believe any fines have been levied in our counties,” Berry said during a chain of text messages last week.

“Yes, businesses have been referred to L & I. Most comply at that point.

“We are beginning the enforcement process with some businesses (last) week, which would result (in) revoking permits if they do not comply with the rules.”

Eight establishments were on Berry’s vaccination-requirement enforcement list as of Friday morning, she said.

All were in Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks — and none in Jefferson County.

Berry would not release the names of the businesses “as it impairs our working relationships and our likelihood of achieving voluntary compliance,” she said.

“We will have to prioritize enforcement based on risk, given limited staff.

“It is very easy for a patron to assess if a business is following these rule sand not to patronize that space while enforcement is underway.”

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