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Fansler, Fresno butt heads over restaurant closures

Fresno restaurateur Dave Fansler is going toe-to-toe with the City of Fresno after the City Attorney threatened fines and prosecution for keeping his restaurants open after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered indoor restaurants to close last week due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a July 3 Facebook post, Fansler shared a letter that he wrote to Fresno County Department of Public Health Director David Pomaville voicing his displeasure with how the current situation has been handled. 

Fansler owns Pismo’s Coastal Grill, Westwoods BBQ and Yosemite Ranch. With Newsom’s order to close all indoor operations last week, restaurants could maintain service on outdoor patios. 

Per the Facebook post, Fansler feels that Pismo’s and Westwoods have the ability to operate as outdoor patio restaurants based on the number of “garage style” windows that roll up, meaning that the restaurants should be allowed to remain open in accordance with Newsom’s order. 

Fansler said the Fresno City Attorney delivered a written threat on July 3 of criminal prosecution, fines and the loss of business licenses and conditional use permits because of the county health department’s interpretation of outdoor dining. 

“You can threaten me everyday and I will stay open and report right here who is attacking us next,” Fansler wrote. “We will follow proper protocols to protect our fellow community members, provide delicious food, and our amazing staff will take care of you.” 

Before restaurants were previously allowed to reopen from the pandemic-caused closures in May, Fansler detailed his health-safety plans for his restaurants to operate safely, which included limited seating capacity, increased sanitization measures and employees wearing masks. 

Mark Standriff, chief spokesman for the City of Fresno, said Fansler’s restaurants were issued conditional use permits as indoor restaurants.

On July 4, Fansler posted a video and a picture from two other Fresno restaurants – The Hangar Restaurant and Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar. In the posts, Fansler showed the restaurants operating with indoor dining and asked why the health department and code enforcement agencies such as the Alcoholic Beverage Control have not cited those restaurants. 

Standriff added that those two restaurants were permitted for patio dining.

If Fansler decides to take legal action against the city, it looks like he will have some support from a former city leader. 

Retired Fresno Chamber of Commerce CEO Al Smith posted on Facebook Sunday that he is willing to pitch in to cover the costs for Fansler’s legal expenses if the restaurateur takes the city to court. 

Fansler did not respond by publication time to requests for comment. 

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.