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.