Business · COVID-19 · Food · Fresno

Fresno restaurateur ends mask requirement: ‘We’re not going to be the police anymore’

With California’s economy set to fully reopen in the middle of June, Fresno restaurateur Dave Fansler is expediting that timeline and not requiring guests or staff to wear face masks at his restaurants any more. 

In speaking with The Sun, Fansler pointed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement last month that all COVID-19 related economic restrictions will be lifted on June 15 based on two conditions:

  1. If vaccine supply is sufficient for Californians 16 years and older
  2. If hospitalization rates are stable and low

Since Fresno County meets both conditions, Fansler decided Monday to change the mask policy at his restaurants – Pismo’s Coastal Grill, Westwoods BBQ and Yosemite Ranch – from mandatory to optional. 

“If June 15 is the date, and we’ve already met the parameters 30 days in advance, it only makes common sense if you would gradually start taking the band-aid off, and that first step would be optional face masking,” Fansler said. “That’s the most common sense thing.” 

As of Monday, Fresno County reports that 79 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. In January, that number was over 700 as the hospitals and ICU units were overrun. 

Since the beginning of the year, Fresno County has also quickly distributed the vaccine, administering 715,000 doses, and nearly 290,000 people have been fully inoculated. 

So far, Fansler said he has not received any pushback from the city’s code enforcement department or the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. 

Last December, Fansler filed a lawsuit against the City of Fresno, claiming he was specifically targeted and harassed by code enforcement. 

Without any bureaucratic opposition yet, Fansler said the reaction to the new optional mask policy has been “extremely positive.” 

“Positive enough that it convinces me that it was the right move,” Fansler said. 

Fansler came to the decision after discussing it with managers and key hourly employees, who all provided positive feedback. 

“We wanted it to be optional for everybody so that a staff person would feel comfortable continuing to wear a mask for whatever reason – we don’t even need to know the reason, and that is their decision, the same with the guest,” Fansler said. 

“Everyone’s in charge of themselves at this point. We’re not going to be the police anymore, and we want people to go through this gradual process of going from voluntary to where you don’t have to do it at all.”

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.