Faced with painful choices, local businesses opt to stay open

Dec 9, 2020

Businesses defying state-mandated COVID-19 closures are speaking out, after SLO County's district attorney issued a statement Tuesday saying he will not press criminal charges against those who choose to keep their doors open.

Although gyms are now ordered to close their indoor and outdoor operations, SLO County's Kennedy Club Fitness is opting to keep its facilities open for use.

As Kennedy managing partner, Brett Weaver said he applauds District Attorney Dan Dow's decision to not seek criminal charges against the business for doing so.

“Whatever support that we can get from the community, whether it is city or county or any DA’s office, it's very helpful for us and other businesses,” Weaver said.

Dow said instead of filing criminal charges against the business, he discussed with city officials on taking civil administrative action, such as issuing fines. Kennedy Club Fitness has already received two separate $1,000 fines. 

“Code enforcement is capable of anything," Weaver said. "I guess they have a job to do, but I have to be honest, we are going to try to continue to bring health and fitness to our community. People need us now more than ever.”

Another business choosing to stay open for indoor and outdoor seating is Santa Maria Brewing Company, with locations in Nipomo and Atascadero.

President of the brewing company, Byron Moles, said the decision was a matter of desperation to save the business from closing for good. 

“Our backs are against the wall, and we really don’t have any other way to withstand it," Moles said. "We don’t have the heart either to lay off our employees when unemployment is up for most of them, and they don’t have an opportunity to collect it again, [and] I can’t see laying off people at Christmas time, it just doesn’t feel right.”

Although Moles is relieved that the county DA's office won’t press charges against him for staying open, he is concerned about the potential of getting civil fines.

So far, the locations have not received any citations.

“It’s either open and live with the consequences or close and never open again," Moles said. "So [I'm] fearful, yes. I don’t like worrying about who is going to show up and what they are going to say, but at the same token, we really have no choice at this point.”