IE businesses react to curfew as Riverside County sheriff says department will not enforce

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- As a state-ordered curfew for counties in the purple tier goes into effect this weekend, covering all of Southern California, some Inland Empire businesses already struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic are anticipating even more losses.

"I'd say probably 20% of our sales are going to be impacted by this decision," said Mike Brewer, who owns the Sire Bar & Grill in Riverside. Brewer said his restaurant has been open until 1 a.m. lately, with all customers using his outdoor patio.

"We've always been a late-night venue. We service a lot of people who are getting off in the hospitality industry. (For them), getting off at 10 at night is like everyone else getting off at 5. They want to go and eat and have drinks. And that's not going to be available for them anymore."

Brewer said he won't disobey the curfew. But he worries that other businesses might decide to defy the order and stay open late into the night.

"I'm kind of resentful of the businesses who continue to stay open in spite of the order, because it's creating an unfair playing field for us. We're trying to do the right thing and follow it... and that puts us in a difficult position because we're trying to be a good, responsible business and at the same time we're getting criticized for following what we're mandated to do."

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said he will not instruct his deputies to enforce the curfew.

"It has been the policy of the Sheriff's Department to encourage responsible behavior and compliance with the Governor's orders," said Sheriff Bianco in a post made on social media. "To ensure constitutional rights are not violated and to limit potential negative interactions and exposure to our deputies, we will not be responding to calls for service based solely on non-compliance with the new order or social distancing and mask guidelines."

In San Bernardino County, the Board of Supervisors recently voted unanimously to pursue a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom because of the recent restrictions placed on businesses.

"We've been frustrated on a local level," said 4th District Supervisor Curt Hagman. "(They're) treating the entire county of San Bernardino under purple... when there are certain areas, 14 of our communities, (that are) not in purple, not even red. Probably yellow."

Hagman said it is getting especially difficult for outdoor businesses in the high desert and mountain communities as temperatures drop.

"We're now seeing snow in the mountains in the winter days. It's kind of hard to tell people to eat outside in the snow."

Hagman said it would likely be months by the time a potential lawsuit would reach the courtroom, suggesting there would probably be a vaccine available for the general population by the time that happens. But he said the restrictions put in place by Newsom are forcing some struggling businesses to face the choice of whether to break the rules or go out of business forever.

"We're seeing a lot of the businesses, instead of complying, go the complete opposite direction. (They're saying) if I'm going to break the rules, I'm going to break the rules all the way," Hagman said.
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