Bay Area restaurants keep flouting dining restrictions. Are health departments enforcing the rules?

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While Bay Area shelter-in-place orders continue to limit restaurants to takeout and delivery service, a growing number are choosing to violate COVID-19 protocols in hopes of generating more revenue. Because of the dire circumstances, enforcing the rules has become a complicated pursuit for many local health departments.

Most local county health departments base their investigations into COVID-19 protocol violations on complaints they get from the public. Even when restaurants flagrantly break the rules and serve meals in outdoor patios in full public view, many local health departments are hesitant to issue fines and view the act of forcing a restaurant to shut down over its violations as a last resort. Instead, a common approach is to issue warnings.

There are some exceptions. A defiant restaurant in Contra Costa County, Incontro Ristorante in Danville, recently had its health permit revoked and was forced to close, though it had already been cited seven times for violating the county’s health order. The restaurant also had to pay numerous fines, according to reports.

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