San Mateo County filed a lawsuit against Pacifica Beach Yoga for violating public health orders, the toughest action the county has taken against businesses breaking safety rules in the pandemic.
The county alleged in the lawsuit that owner Tommy Antoon has flagrantly refused to abide by various health orders for months, and has offered indoor, “mask-free” yoga classes, sometimes up to three times a day. All indoor gyms, fitness centers and yoga studios must close in areas covered by the state’s current stay-at-home orders, imposed after COVID-19 cases threatened to swamp state hospitals.
The complaint filed in San Mateo County Superior Court also said Antoon failed to require staff and customers to wear face coverings and observe other safety protocols, and has refused requests by county staff to voluntarily follow public health orders.
According to the lawsuit, on January 5, Antoon told a county staffer “I’ll never close” and profanely rejected citations he’d been issued, saying he would never pay them.
At a court hearing Thursday, Judge Danny Chou granted the county’s request for a temporary restraining order to force Pacifica Beach Yoga to immediately shut down. A hearing is set for February 4 and the court will evaluate then if a continued need for the preliminary injunction is needed.
“This business has left us no choice,” San Mateo County Counsel John Beiers said in a statement. “Our community rightly expects that when its state government imposes shelter in place laws, those laws will be enforced justly and equitably to ensure that everyone is playing by the same rules.”
Pacifica Beach Yoga did not respond to calls for comment. Posts on the studio’s Instagram page advertised classes as recently as Saturday, Jan. 16. One post described the classes as “mask free, fear free.”
There have been 26 complaints since late October against Pacifica Beach Yoga alleging health order violations, according to the county’s Business Compliance Team, an enforcement group formed in November. As of Jan. 5, the unit has received 1,065 complaints against businesses, of which 72% were abated. It has issued 100 written warnings and 22 citations, county officials previously told The Chronicle.
So far, at least nine businesses have been fined as repeat offenders of stay-at-home orders since the County started keeping track of violations in November. They include a bar, a beauty salon, a gas station, and several gyms, among others. The Pacifica yoga studio was among them.
Fines against Pacifica Beach Yoga totaled $3,750, including a $250 citation in November for advertising “mask-free” hot yoga, and another $500 fine in December for operating indoors.
“We have a simple and clear message here in San Mateo County: Wear your damn mask,” David Canepa, president of the county’s Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. “It’s not about you. It’s about everyone around you, including your friends, your loved ones and the people you don’t even know who you come in contact with.”