The owner of a small cafe in the northern California town of Mendocino is now penalizing patrons for wearing a mask while ordering food. Chris Castleman, owner of Fiddlehead’s Cafe, put up a sign in the window of his establishment to let diners know they would be hit with a $5 fee for wearing a face covering.
In the small print at the bottom of the sign is a notice that diners will have an additional $5 added to their bills if they “are caught bragging” about being vaccinated against the coronavirus. Castleman, who for months has protested public health measures designed to control the pandemic, claims that proceeds of his fees will be donated to local charities assisting domestic abuse victims. He also says payment is optional.
“Customers either love it or hate it,” he said in an email to NBC News Bay Area. “There are people who refuse to pay it; I guess a $5 donation to charity is too much for them. Others have gladly paid it knowing that it goes to a good cause. I don’t force anyone to pay, I give them the freedom of choice, which seems to be a foreign concept in these parts of the country.”
Mendocino County is in the yellow tier for COVID-19 reopening, meaning restaurants can operate indoors at a maximum of 50 percent capacity but masks are required when diners are not eating or drinking.
In April Castleman had posted another sign that read: “THROW YOUR MASK(S) IN OUR TRASH BIN AND RECEIVE 50% OFF YOUR ORDER.” Yet another sign that has since been removed read: “GET YOUR FREE COVID-19 VACCINE CARD HERE!” Alongside that message was a photocopy of what appeared to be an official COVID-19 vaccination record card.
The cafe, which offers a limited menu and is closed three days a week, also posted a sign advising potential patrons “this environment may not be suitable to everyone.”