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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Crowded El Prez bar in Pacific Beach shut down for reopening, violating health order

The news comes after San Diego County became the most populous county in California to receive state approval to move further into stage 2.

SAN DIEGO — On Friday at 2:30 p.m., San Diego County gave its final COVID-19 update of the week, which you can watch here.

On Thursday, San Diego County received approval from the state of California to go further into phase two of reopening the economy, which includes seated dining with safety modifications. 

“All our hard work, however, can be easily lost,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “We cannot afford to blow all of the progress we’ve made to date.”

Some restaurants chose to reopen with the safety modifications, while others did not.

“We know the overwhelming majority of our businesses out there are doing everything that they’ve been asked to do and we greatly appreciate that," said Fletcher.

Within hours of San Diego County’s public health order being amended, photos and videos circulated on social media of El Prez in Pacific Beach violating the order. The photos and videos showed people at a packed multistory bar, most without face coverings, drinking alcohol without social distancing. 

"We saw very troubling and very concerning instances of blatant disregard for the public health orders and blatant noncompliance. One of the most egregious of these examples was the El Prez restaurant located in the Pacific Beach area,” said Fletcher.

On Thursday, just hours before the El Prez incident, San Diego County clarified the rules for restaurants. 

At restaurants, there should be no self-service, like soda foundations or salad bars. Restaurants must encourage reservations and expand outdoor seating. There will be temperature and symptom checks for employees daily. Employees must wear face coverings and customers must wear them too, unless they’re seated. Tables and chairs will be spaced apart. People must order food at their table in order to be served alcohol.

President of the San Diego chapter of the California Restaurant Association, Jeff Rossman, said the "new normal" for dining will include table seating in outdoor parking lots and social distancing stickers and signs. Customers should wait in their cars until their table is ready.  

Fletcher said that law enforcement responded to El Prez on Mission Blvd. On Friday, the county served the bar/restaurant, closing it immediately until further notice.

“We simply cannot tolerate such blatant and intentional violations,” said Fletcher.

"These are very unique times and we're talking about public health," said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit.

News 8 reached out to El Prez management for comment. They responded on Friday evening with this statement:

Credit: El Prez

It read in part, "We needed to be ready for the crowd. We weren't. So we're currently re-evaulating the measures we need to take for when we reopen." 

Just a few blocks away, News 8 cameras also captured people at Mavericks Beach Club in Pacific Beach on Thursday not wearing face coverings and crowding together. 

Management at Mavericks responded on Friday evening saying:

Mavericks Beach Club is abiding by county health department guidelines and is operating at a significantly reduced seated only occupancy. Mavericks has also implemented the following strategies to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Security have replaced the physical distancing stickers on the ground out front with more identifiable large stickered traffic cones. Security is enforcing physical distancing and face coverings in the line outside Mavericks.Servers are reminding guests to wear a face covering when not eating or drinking and encouraging guests to stay seated to help keep physical distancing in the restaurant. We are not allowing guests to roam.Mavericks is not providing service at the bar. Guests must be seated to order food and drinks from their designated server at their table.Mavericks is committed to providing a safe dining environment.

Thank you for reaching out. 

It also added that they are not allowing guests to come in unless they are wearing a proper facial covering. 

San Diego County Undersheriff Mike Barnett urged the public to stay safe and respect the orders in place during the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, which is meant for observing fallen veterans.

“Law enforcement is very concerned about reports of large crowds gathering at bars,” said Barnett. 

Barnett said very, very few people have been issued citations or warrants for not adhering to social distancing in San Diego County so far. 

“On rare occasions, we are left with no choice but to issue a citation,” said Barnett. 

6,434 people have tested positive for COVID-19 countywide. Dr. Wilma Wooten announced one new death, meaning 242 people have died countywide as a result of COVID-19. 

According to Wooten, 19% of the total confirmed cases, cumulative, have been hospitalized. 30% of those hospitalized end up in the ICU.

“Metrics continue to trend in the right direction,” said Wooten. 

Chairman Greg Cox hopes San Diegans this weekend will honor veterans that paid the ultimate sacrifice.

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