The board had originally filed suit against 18 businesses — four restaurants and 14 gyms — in January for refusing to close their doors or abide by masking requirements, but settled with most by early February when the state returned to the tiered closure system and lifted its stay-at-home order. The latest move, announced Tuesday night, drops the charges against the remaining businesses just as Ventura County lifted restrictions on indoor operations.
“The lawsuits were never meant to be punitive but rather to gain compliance with public health orders,” Chair Linda Parks said in a joint statement on behalf of the board of supervisors. “This act of goodwill is in concert with the loosening of indoor restrictions accompanying the county’s move into the red tier. We extend our deep appreciation and thanks to all businesses that have worked so hard and continue to work hard to keep their employees and customers safe from COVID by following public health guidelines. It’s crucial that all businesses follow the state issued guidance so that we can all continue to move forward. We want to make sure we all work together to protect lives and to continue reopening our county.”
The businesses relieved from the remaining suits are Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut in Oxnard, the Original Pizza Cookery in Thousand Oaks, the House of Gains in Port Hueneme, Colosseum Bootcamp in Oxnard and Westlake Fitness in Thousand Oaks. Under current red tier restrictions, the restaurants are permitted to open indoor dining rooms with 25 percent capacity and gyms may operate at 10 percent capacity.
“This has all been a sham since the beginning,” Matt Brimigion, owner of Mrs. Olson’s, said in an interview. Since the pandemic started, Brimigion has disregarded county restrictions, adamant that the local government has no right to determine when or how he does business. In addition to the lawsuit that has now been dropped, the county also issued multiple fines for hosting live music events in person and has revoked Brimigion’s business and operating licenses.
Brimigion said he has no intention of paying any imposed fines and will continue operating his breakfast and lunch business at full capacity, indoors, for any customers who want to be served, with or without valid licenses.
In January, when the original lawsuits were filed, he formed the Businesses Representing American Values and Enterprises, or BRAVE Coalition, a collective of local business owners and concerned citizens who have since initiated recall efforts against the four county supervisors who voted to file the suits.
“We needed a voice. We needed to fight back,” Brimigion said. He plans to keep fighting against what he sees as politically motivated closures and for the rights of business owners, even if the fights escalate in court as the result of his continued flouting of the restrictions.
“I’m gonna be in business another 40 years,” Brimigion said. “Their term limit is going to be the next six months, max.”