At Aloha Coffee & Cafe in Monterey, online reviewers laud it for its coffee ("very flavorful, smooth, and just the right amount of sweet," wrote Incline Village resident Paul M. of his visit there on Dec. 4) and the shop's seeming adherence to Covid protocols ("they have removed all the interior seating," Paul M. noted in the same review).
But on Dec. 23, Aloha's county health permit—a document required for a food establishment to operate—was revoked after county health inspectors found, on repeat visits based on citizens' complaints, that owner Richard Dunnuck was not complying with county health orders that require food workers to wear masks and for workers and patrons alike to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Despite that initial permit revocation, Dunnuck remained open.
Today, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Lydia Villarreal took the next step, issuing a temporary restraining order against Aloha and Dunnuck that requires Aloha to close unless and until it obtains a valid food service permit.
The order also requires Aloha to comply with the Regional Stay at Home Order and state and local face covering orders.
Dunnuck appeared in court for today's hearing without an attorney, but he asked the judge for time to retain one. He will return to court on Jan. 14, at which time Villarreal could make the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction and keep the shop closed until a valid permit is obtained.
Dunnuck did not immediately respond to a message left on the shop's voicemail requesting comment following today's hearing. In a previous interview, he stated that he intends to sue Monterey County for discrimination, although the basis for such an action remains unclear. He says health inspectors and police have trespassed by entering his building and accuses them of harassment.
Today's court action, says Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Emily Hickok, was tied to a complaint her office filed against Aloha and Dunnuck alleging that by remaining open without the proper permits, he's engaging in unfair business competition.
"From our perspective, the vast majority of businesses, when we receive a complaint and contact them, they comply," Hickok says. "There are a few outliers out there that do not, and that's why we've filed the complaint."
In addition to next week's hearing, Dunnuck is to return to court on May 11 for a case management conference on the unfair business competition allegation.