Costa Mesa bar owner faces criminal charges for Covid violations

Westend Bar’s Roland Michael Barrera becomes first business owner charged in Orange County for operating illegally during pandemic

Westend Bar (Photo via Google Maps)
Westend Bar (Photo via Google Maps)

A Costa Mesa bar owner is facing criminal charges for illegally operating during the pandemic, becoming the first business owner in the county to face such action.

The Orange County district attorney’s office charged Roland Michael Barrera of Westend Bar with a misdemeanor for repeatedly violating state safety protocols, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Barrera’s bar continued to operate past the state’s 10 p.m. curfew and did not require patrons or employees to practice social distancing or wear face coverings to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, according to the report. The coronavirus has so far killed nearly 2,000 people in Orange County.

Police responded to Westend Bar at around 11 p.m. on Dec. 12. A manager, Luisza Giulietta Mauro, allegedly tried to prevent the officer from entering, authorities said.

The county charged Mauro with a misdemeanor count of resisting a police officer. He and Barrera each face a maximum of a year in jail if convicted, although prosecutors say their cases could be resolved with mandated education if they do not commit new violations, according to the Times.

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Late last month, a Sherman Oaks restaurant owner filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Nesom to stop the statewide ban on outdoor dining, calling it unconstitutional and not backed by science. The order has been in effect since early December, with most of the state subject to it. Most retail businesses are limited to 20 percent of indoor capacity, while some businesses must close altogether, including hair and nail salons.

Barrera is just one of numerous business owners in Orange County to disregard safety protocols, according to reports. County prosecutors have declined to file criminal charges in around two dozen cases of businesses violating those protocols.

District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Westend Bar had multiple opportunities to remedy the violations and called the behavior “a slap in the face to hard-working business owners who are trying to do the right thing.”

Covid cases have been rising countywide and throughout much of California since the late fall. Orange County reached the state-designated “widespread” status in mid-November, leading to closures of several types of businesses. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch