Ignoring the law

Pacifica Beach Yoga has run afoul of county regulators by defying orders to close during the pandemic. Recently, the business owner has posted threats against county officials on social media. Adam Pardee / Tribune

San Mateo County won a temporary injunction on Thursday against Pacifica Beach Yoga and its owner Thomas Antoon for operating without the required health and safety measures in place to staunch the spread of COVID-19, county officials say. For his part, Antoon appeared unrepentant, posting vague threats intended for county officials on a social media account for the business.

San Mateo County had been under a regional stay- at-home order and further restricted indoor gyms and yoga studios from opening. Pacifica Beach Yoga defied those rules, according to the San Mateo County complaint against the business. In addition, the complaint states Pacific Beach Yoga staff failed to make sure that patrons wore face coverings, per county health orders, despite warnings from County staff.

Judge Danny Chou ruled Pacifica Beach Yoga must immediately shut down, granting the county’s request for a temporary restraining order. The business must also pay the accrued fines for noncompliance, at $250 each, which now total $3,750, plus interest and attorney’s fees. A hearing on the preliminary injunction was set for Feb. 4 to determine if the injunction should continue. The complaint also seeks $1,000 a day in civil fees for the owner to pay from Jan. 13 “until the public nuisance is permanently abated,” the complaint states.

“This business left us no choice,” wrote San Mateo County Counsel John Beiers in a press release. “Our community rightly expects when its state government imposes shelter-in-place laws, those laws will be enforced justly and equitably to ensure everyone is playing by the same rules. Pacifica Beach Yoga has repeatedly, knowingly and flagrantly decided not to follow the rules that other businesses in this county are following. This is dangerous and cannot be allowed to continue.”

The studio held “hot” yoga classes two to three times a day in one indoor room without requiring face coverings, when the county and the state required such masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the complaint states.

The county’s COVID Business Compliance team received 26 online complaints about Pacifica Beach Yoga alleged health order violations between October and early January, Beiers wrote in an email to the Tribune.

“During that time, the team attempted to educate and work with the owner to comply with state health orders. It then fined him when he continued not to comply,” he wrote. “The take- home message is that everyone needs to do their part in combating this terrible virus and that includes following the law. We are all in this together.”

The complaint states Antoon reacted to every visit from county officials with foul language. Antoon has since publicly threatened on Instagram to “delete” a county official who spoke up to enforce the county’s orders. He called the county official “evil scum” and threatened to harass his family.

Pacifica Beach Yoga management could not be reached for comment by deadline.

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