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Orcutt wine bar defying order to close, owner vows to remain open and take stand against the state

ORCUTT, Calif. -- A popular Orcutt wine bar is staying open despite a recent state Stay at Home order that went into effect Sunday.

The order announced last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom orders many businesses, including wineries, breweries and bars closed.

"We've decided that we're going to defy the order and stay open," ​​​​​Vino et Amicis owner ​​​​​Kurt Hixenbaugh. "My intent in defying the order is to encourage others to do it and encourage our politicians to get involved. We elect them to support us and lobby for us up in Sacramento and they're not doing it and somebody needs to."

Hixenbaugh went public with his decision on Sunday during a six-minute long YouTube video.

He told NewsChannel 3-12 on Monday his businesses will stay open because he's upset with Gov. Newsom's new Regional Stay-at-Home order.

"Being lumped into a region, rather than a county by county is really not fair at all to anybody in Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo County," said Hixenbaugh. "Our numbers don't support a mass shutdown of small businesses, of restaurants, of bars, it just doesn't. Our hospitals, there's plenty of room in our hospitals, there's plenty of ICU. It just doesn't justify a massive shutdown."

He added his decision is being made to take a stand against the state and let government leaders know that business closures are creating extreme financial hardship.

"A lot of businesses are failing," said Hixenbaugh. "Somebody needs to stand up and just say, you know what, we've been compliant all along. We've made every adjustment in the world they've asked us to make. Restaurants around here have spent tens of thousands of dollars modifying their outdoor space to accomodate government mandates as they come down, and now that carpet has been pulled out from underneath them, they're losing money. They're losing employees, and it's not justified in my mind."

Hixenbaugh said he, like many other business owners, has suffered financially throughout the pandemic."

"We're going to lose our business if we keep operating this way," said Hixenbaugh. "It's not sustainable. It just isn't. There's got to be a balance. We're not denying that there's a problem, but we can also still stay in business and be mindful of the risks."

Hixenbaugh is hoping other local businesses that are being forced to close will follow suit and keep their doors open.

He also understands there are significant risks and consequences at stake with his refusal to close.

"I'm willing to take the risk," said Hixenbaugh. "I learned growing up that you need to pick your battles and this is a battle that somebody needs to stand up and fight and I understand that there's risk. I could get fined. I could lose a license, but at the end of the day, somebody has got to stand up. Somebody has to stand up and say, this is enough, so it's a risk that I'm willing to take."

Since he posted his decision on social media, Hixenbaugh said the support he and received has been immense.

"It's been phenomenal," said Hixenbaugh. "I've had customers that are my regulars for a long time and they are 100% behind me. They echo everything that I've said. Somebody needs to do it and if I do it, they'll support me."

Mia Relyea of Orcutt emphasized on Monday she'll be among the customers who are ready to back the business.

"I'm absolutely supportive of him staying open and serving his patrons," said Relyea. "He's been following all the rules. The masking, the six feet apart, and if that worked then, it should work now."

She added that like Hixenbaugh, she too, is unhappy with the new state order and believes people should have the choice to patronize businesses.

"Everybody knows the risk when they go out and if you're willing to take the risk, then you should be able to go out," said Relyea. "I think our small businesses need a fighting chance and I don't understand why it's been taken out on the small businesses."

As Vino et Amicis remains open, Hixenbaugh stresses strict COVID-19 protocols will remain in place.

"We're very mindful of it," said Hixenbaugh. "We're still going to be wearing masks. We're still going to be social distancing. We're still going to be keep our sanitation standards as high as possible. We're very mindful and respectful of that."

He also said he will close should local COVID-19 numbers rise significantly.

"You have to be flexible," said Hixenbaugh. "You have to be sensitive to what's happening in our community. If we do get a spike and our hospitals fill up, if our ICUs fill up, we'll absolutely make an adjustment."

Article Topic Follows: Money and Business

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.


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