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San Diego County shuts down Escondido restaurant for flouting masks order

A gardener clears leaves from the parking lot of Hernandez Hideaway in Escondido in 2010.
(Peggy Peattie / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Saying its proprietor refused to follow a standing public health directive designed to prevent novel coronavirus outbreaks, the San Diego County health department ordered an Escondido business on the shores of Lake Hodges to close immediately Friday.

Signed by Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health officer, the document says that the Hernandez Hideaway restaurant at 19320 Lake Drive “shall be immediately closed” and may not reopen until the operation shows “that social distancing and sanitation standards will be followed.”

Wooten’s order indicates that county environmental health inspectors visited the restaurant on May 29, discovering that those present were not maintaining adequate social distance from each other “nor were employees wearing face coverings.”

Owner Rick Stevens, according to the shut-down order, was warned that his establishment should immediately begin following the rules laid out in the county’s safe-reopening guidelines, but a second visit on June 12 by deputy sheriffs again “observed staff not wearing facial covering.” The county reported receiving a complaint about the lack of face coverings in place at Hernandez Hideaway on June 23.

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The older you are, the greater your risk for a severe case of COVID-19, the CDC says as it expands its list of risky underlying health conditions.

The county states that it reached Stevens on June 23, stating that he “admitted that he was not compliant and stated he will continue to operate without these COVID preventative measures and will not require staff to wear face coverings.”

Stevens could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Hernandez Hideaway is the second restaurant to suffer such a shutdown since the county issued an order on May 21 authorizing in-person dining. El Prez, a popular bar and restaurant in Pacific Beach, closed on May 22 after video of a raucous crowd partying shoulder-to-shoulder, largely without wearing masks, surfaced on social media.


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