In the bucolic seaside town of Mendocino, Fiddleheads Cafe, a restaurant previously known for shutting down in June 2020 after refusing to comply with masking orders, has once again caused local consternation after owner Chris Castleman displayed a sign that reads, “Throw Your Mask(s) in our trash bin and receive 50% off your order.”
Mendocino County’s Code Enforcement Supervisor John Burkes said the county had received complaints regarding Fiddleheads and is “investigating as we speak.”
When asked whether the “Throw Your Mask(s) in the Trash” sign was against the county health code, Burkes confirmed that as per Mendocino County Health orders, anybody entering or circulating in a facility is required to wear a mask.
When we asked Mendocino County 5th District Supervisor Ted Williams for comment regarding Castleman’s sign, he simply said, “Imagine the good he could do with that energy.”
In June 2020, Castleman organized a GoFundMe to help him “hire a lawyer to define our right to stay open and serve our customers.” The GoFundMe characterized Mendocino County’s attempts to enforce pandemic protocols as “3 months of attacks from a small group of activist/bullies and overreaching politicians.”
John Burkes of Code Enforcement confirmed that two notices of violations were issued to Castleman and an administrative citation in which fines were issued. When asked whether Castleman had paid the fine, Burkes explained the county provides an appeals process to anyone who is issued a fine and Castleman is currently appealing the administrative citation.
When we reached out to Castleman for comment regarding the controversial signage, Castleman sent us another sign currently being displayed on his storefront that “sums up my take on the situation.”
The heading of the sign reads “ATTENTION: THIS ENVIRONMENT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE TO EVERYONE.”
The sign provides a list of requests that patrons are told “by entering these premises, you consent to the following”:
- People might not be wearing masks, Please respect their freedom to breathe.
- People may be within 6ft of one another, Please respect their freedom to socialize.
- People might not be local, Please respect their freedom to travel
- People might not be vaccinated, Please respect their freedom to live naturally
- People may not share your opinions or feelings, Please respect their freedom to think independently
Other posters displayed on Fiddlehead’s storefront provide a philosophical backdrop for Castleman’s stances with one poster portraying a Bald Eagle overlaying an American flag wrapped with the words “Be American, Buy American.”
Another poster includes a pair of military boots with dog tags hanging off of them emblazoned across red, white, and blue accompanied by the slogan “Home of the Free, Because of the Brave.”
Another notable piece of signage on Fiddleshead’s window seems to be a nod to the sovereign citizen movement. The sign warns of “NO TRESPASSING INCLUDING ALL PUBLIC OFFICIALS OR AGENTS THEREOF.” The document cites the 2nd and 4th Amendments claiming “ALLEGED ZONING OR CODE NON-COMPLIANCES DOES NOT ESTABLISH CONSTITUTIONAL REASONS FOR ENTERING THE PROPERTY.”
While Castleman continues to take on the County’s Health Orders, multiple entities in Mendocino County are continuing to push for masking compliance. The MaskUpMendo program, a collaboration between Chambers of Commerce throughout the county, businesses, and local industry, continues to spread awareness and education regarding the importance of masking to mitigate COVID-19 transmission. North Coast Opportunities continues to push out public service announcements encouraging residents to mask.
Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren in a press release published last week emphasized that in the aftermath of four COVID-19 variants being discovered within the county, “whether vaccinated or not, we as a community need to abide by COVID-19 precautions to avoid another surge.”
As Code Enforcement continues to investigate the Fiddleheads circumstance, Supervisor John Burkes wanted to emphasize to residents that “we are aware of the community concerns and we’re investigating at this time. I am hesitant to say more as the investigation is still on-going.”