Aloha Coffee & Cafe owner Richard Dunnuck in court (copy)

Richard Dunnuck, owner of Aloha Coffee & Cafe, in Monterey County Superior Court on Jan. 14, 2021. On April 8, a judge ordered Dunnuck's cafe to be padlocked after finding he remained in violation of court orders. 

After Monterey County Superior Court Judge Marla Anderson ordered PG&E in March to cut electrical and gas service to Rich Dunnuck's Aloha Coffee & Cafe in Monterey, Dunnuck pretty quickly came up with a workaround: He got a generator, plugged it in to a live outlet elsewhere in the Del Monte Avenue building and kept serving food and beverages. 

For that, Dunnuck was ordered to appear in court on April 5 on a contempt citation for violating the order meant to prevent him from doing business until he obtains a food permit from the Monterey County Health Department. Aloha's permit was pulled in December after Dunnuck was found to have repeatedly violated pandemic health orders around social distancing and the use of masks in his cafe.

But come April 5, Dunnuck didn't appear in court and Anderson set another hearing, on May 3, at which point she will hold the contempt proceedings. If Dunnuck fails to appear again, Anderson will issue a warrant of attachment, allowing law enforcement to pick up Dunnuck and bring him to court.

But Thursday, April 8, came another hearing at which Dunnuck didn't appear. This one was an ex parte hearing, spurred by the city of Monterey and handled by the District Attorney's Office, that resulted in Anderson ordering Aloha to be padlocked (or to have the locks changed) and the generator Dunnuck is using to be disabled.

After the building is locked down, if Dunnuck wants to enter his cafe to remove personal property, he'll need a law enforcement escort onto the premises. 

It's unclear if the process will begin later today or tomorrow. 

"We're waiting on a signed copy of the judge's order, and once we get that we will have law enforcement post it and disable or take the generator," says Deputy District Attorney Emily Hickok. "And 24 hours later, we will lock or otherwise secure the building." 

Dunnuck's travails with the court system began last year, when the Health Department revoked his permit, a document food establishments are required to have to operate. He claims his choice not to comply with the county's mask-wearing ordinance is due to a medical issue and "religious conviction." (He declined to provide details on either his medical condition or his religious beliefs; according to permit revocation records, he said he has asthma.)

Rather than coming into compliance and seeking reinstatement of his permit, Dunnuck continued serving customers. He says he transitioned the cafe to a private membership association and doesn't have to comply with health orders as a result.

"When the injunction first happened, a private membership association was formed at that time and it's in the private domain," Dunnuck said in an interview in March. "The guidelines are on the door and if you don't agree to the guidelines, you don't come in." 

He also said he plans to take legal action against the District Attorney's Office, the judge and Monterey County Superior Court, and is filing complaints with the State Bar Association and the state Attorney General's Office.

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(5) comments

Leigh Fitz

I am wondering if by "plugged in nearby" the writer means plugged in at the Republican headquarters right next door. I'm really wondering I don't know it just occurs to me that it's a possibility... Especially given the other comments about how his rights are being trampled but the judge has no right to do what she is clearly within her rights to do :)

Otis Needleman

Actions like those of Monterey County government/law enforcement/judiciary in this case against an American just trying to provide for himself and his family are why the wise person has no faith, trust, or confidence in government/law enforcement/judiciary at ANY level in this country. Remember, this "judge", the law enforcement, and city/county government workers have NEVER missed a paycheck throughout all this. They simply don't care if anyone else starves. And you'd better pay those Monterey County property taxes on time - or else. Utterly disgusting.

luis Valencia

[thumbdown] oh please the guy and his business would be ok and still be open if he wood wear a mask (you know the kind that helps protect others during a pandemic) his rights to be an idiot are Second to everyone else's rights to be safe. I believe he is citing religious freedoms, look dude no one is asking g you to marry a gay couple or make an espresso with a dildo made out of cream...grow up and abide by the rules. It's a shame, I actually liked the coffee there

Dalila Epperson

This report on Richard / Aloha, is woefully one sided. He has been representing himself in court, wearing his mask in court, and complying with the judge in this way. But his choice to not wear a mask within his own cafe, and now his private club, and give that same choice to his patrons, is legal and binding within the laws of California. I find only strength of character in these actions.

California is one of the most strict when it comes to Discrimination Laws. And yet, his health permit was revoked due to his choice not to wear a mask inside his own establishment. The mask mandate is not a law. So, what's really going on here. He has not violated any health laws, key word, laws.

People, do your due diligence and look into this story! Look into the actual laws. This reporter has not. Richard is an upstanding American getting harassed by our own government, (a government sworn by oaths to protect Americans by it's representatives such as this judge and the DA office reps, the police who may arrest him, etc.) who are suppose to be protecting him from these very things they are doing and threatening to do. Don't just read and judge, get into what's really going on around you and do your own research.

Marilyn Galli

Correction to my last comment because of typos that did I not type: This is harassment by this Judge Marla Anderson who by the way was not elected by this community. She ran unopposed and they did not include her on the ballot. The health permit was taken from him so now you want him to ask for it back. Then you lockdown his business when he is a club now not owned by the state or county. He is not obligated to tell anyone about his health or his beliefs to be exempt from masks. His employees have choices to wear one and so does he. He deserves proper legal help from these tyrants in our judicial system.

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