SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — After spending approximately 10 months complying with county and state public health orders and restrictions, Mike Hess Brewing decided to reopen its San Diego locations for in-person services this week.
"The decision to open up and get back to work was made after lots of thoughtful consideration," said Mike Hess, the chief brewing officer and co-founder of Mike Hess Brewing. "We're trying to save the business. We worked for 11 years to build this brand and to get out there and be a great part of the community."
Mike Hess Brewing has three operating locations in North Park, Imperial Beach, and Ocean Beach, now offering in-person dining. Under the latest restrictions, breweries and restaurants may only offer take-out services. Both indoor and outdoor dining services are not allowed.
Hess said he had to furlough approximately 65 out of 80 staff members in 2020. He said he had followed all the restrictions on breweries and restaurants throughout the pandemic, but after hearing that many business owners are participating in what's being called a "peaceful protest," Hess decided to bring his employees back and reopen for in-person dining.
"All of them want to come back to work; all of them need to come back to work. Really it's about the people element and putting people back to work so they can earn a living," he said.
Hess said his North Park location was visited by San Diego Police officers recently.
"We're not acting unlawfully. The police are out there handing out an informative notice that we're violating the Mayor's edict," he said. "I understand they're doing their jobs."
Hess is being represented by an attorney who has offered free legal services to business owners across the county in similar situations.
"Curran & Curran out of Encinitas, they're doing 100% of the work pro bono," he said. "They are constitutional attorneys; they believe passionately that what they're doing is the right thing, and they're offering a means for businesses like ours to be able to open up lawfully."
Although Governor Gavin Newsom does have some executive authority during this pandemic, Hess said he believes the public health orders and restrictions are not laws, so he is not breaking any laws. Numerous lawsuits challenging the governor's authority were filed in 2020.
He said he understands COVID-19 is serious but believes there is not enough proof to blame these specific industries for the rise in cases.
"If the lockdowns actually worked, then we wouldn't be seeing these numbers actually rocketing even over the last few weeks while all of the restaurants are closed," said Hess.
He said he is back open safely and with social distancing, strict sanitizing, and mask enforcement in place. Hess said his decision is about his employees and saving the business he has spent more than a decade building up.
"We're going to obey the law; if we get a signed by a judge lawful cease and desist, we will obey it. Again we're not lawbreakers; we are simply exercising our right for peaceful protest, which is protected under the California and the U.S. Constitution," he said.