The Patterson City Council adopted an ordinance unanimously on Tuesday that permits local businesses such as restaurants, barbershops, and beauty salons to conduct business activities outdoors that are not otherwise permitted indoors due to COVID-19 restrictions in place due to the pandemic.
The ordinance aims to give local businesses that have shut down since the pandemic was declared a state of emergency in March. Gov. Newsom had begun to loosen restrictions in May, but due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, he started to mandate restrictions on non-essential businesses in July.
“Anything that we can do to help support our local businesses and continue to have some ability to survive is so important,” Mayor Deborah Novelli said at Tuesday’s meeting.
The new ordinance was characterized as a “compromise” that will give local businesses another avenue to explore to bring in revenue during the pandemic.
The ordinance will establish a permit procedure that aims to provide outdoor operations opportunities for local businesses. The report states that the permitting process is “flexible.”
“Because businesses are struggling and time is of the essence, the city is establishing an outdoor permit process,” Director of Community Development David James said on Tuesday.
Each business will be evaluated on a case by case basis. There will be an inspection by city staff during the evaluation process. The anticipation is that businesses will use extra space such as sidewalks near their storefront to potentially serve customers when otherwise they would not be able to.
“I want to support anything that we can that will bring these businesses,” Mayor Pro Tem Dominic Farinha said. “We all know how this virus has affected business nationwide and worldwide. I certainly hope on the local level we can do whatever we can to get them going again.”
Giving business more flexibility was not the only pandemic related item on the agenda. The council also adopted an urgency ordinance requiring all businesses within the City of Patterson to require every person entering the business and continue until their departure to wear a face mask or face covering that covers the nose and mouth.
This local ordinance is consistent with state requirements that require patrons to wear facemasks while indoors.
As outlined by the ordinance that permitted businesses to operate outdoors, restaurant dining will only be allowed to host patrons outside, but the mask ordinance does include an exception not to wear a face mask while dining indoors should a time come when restaurants are allowed to host customers for indoor dining.
The ordinance comes with a provision detailing how the city will enforce the mandate.
“A violation of the ordinance shall be considered an imminent threat to the public health and is hereby declared to be a public nuisance in accordance with Title 1, General Provisions, of the 6.2Packet Pg. 104Patterson Municipal Code (“PMC”), Chapter 1.32, Code Enforcement. The City Manager may designate an enforcement officer who may issue administrative citations for violations of the ordinance, pursuant to the procedures in Chapter 1.44 of the PMC,” the report states.
First time violation of the ordinance may result in an administrative citation with a $250 fine to the business found in violation.
A second violation may result in a $500 fine, and a third and all subsequent offenses can result in a $1000 penalty for each violation.
“We are trying to avoid folks having to deal with irate customers. Hopefully, this gives them a little bit of leverage,” City Manager Ken Irwin said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “The intent of the order is to encourage businesses to require a mask to be worn by their customers. If they don’t, it is up to the business to ask them to leave.”
City staff was clear to the council that the intent behind this ordinance is not to punish any individual business or person. Businesses will be found to be in violation only for blatant disregard of the mandate. Each business will be warned via a formal letter that outlines the city’s policy before measures such as fines would occur.
“The intent is not for any one-off situation. The intent of the ordinance is to issue a citation for a consistent practice,” City Attorney Nubia Goldstein explained to concerned councilmembers. “The intent is not to police every single transaction per se. It’s more to address a lack of overarching policy for a mask ordinance.”
Goldstein went on to say, “The first step is education and working with the business in what the ordinance is actually requiring before going down the road of a fine.”
Mayor Novelli was a proponent of the ordinance being drafted and stated that she viewed the measure as “empowering” local businesses. “This is just on a local level giving more teeth to it. The way I look at it is that it is empowering our local businesses to say, hey, look, this is not only a requirement from the state but an ordinance from the city.”