In early May, The Tuck Box, Carmel’s historic English tea room and restaurant, threw caution to the wind and opened its patio and dining room for business—in violation of Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-home order and county Health Officer Edward Moreno's shelter-in-place order.
At the time, owner Jeffrey LeTowt told television media that if officials really wanted to shut him down, they could send in a SWAT team and cuff him.
"My constitutional rights are being violated, first and fifth, I don't know, I shouldn't have to suffer financial hardship because of this," LeTowt told KSBW. "It's all politics…you don't have the right to bankrupt me."
LeTowt also told press that he was having trouble paying the rent on the restaurant (the building, according to County Assessor records, is owned by LeTowt's father) and the mortgage and property taxes on his home in the face of $60,000 in losses due to the health orders and shut down.
It didn't take a SWAT team or shackles, but even after Carmel police, the District Attorney's Office and the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control District Attorney's Office charged him with three misdemeanors—for violating the health order, for failing to maintain social distancing at his restaurant, and for failing to wear a mask or require employees to wear masks while interacting with customers—LeTowt's business remained open.
What it took: a temporary restraining order, filed by the District Attorney, to finally get him to close down his dining room and patio.
And now, those decisions are going to cost him. LeTowt, via a stipulated final judgment with the District Attorney's Office, will pay $15,000 in civil penalties for violating the state and county emergency health orders. To ensure future compliance, the temporary restraining order has been converted into an injunction requiring The Tuck Box to comply with dine-in service restrictions—in the event that such restrictions are reissued to combat a surge in Covid-19 cases—as well as face covering and social distancing requirements.
An additional $20,000 in civil penalties will become payable if The Tuck Box or its employees violate the terms of the injunction.
Supporters of LeTowt's launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay his legal fees. In all, the campaign raised $27,142.