Dave Fansler says he’s called the dining space at his Pismo’s Coastal Grill restaurant a patio for well over a decade now. The Fresno County Health Department says it falls under the definition of indoor dining, which is prohibited under the state’s COVID-19 emergency order.

Fansler has continued to serve customers at his restaurant, which he says has led to to three citations for defying the indoor closure order. Now, he’s hired high powered local attorney Warren Paboojian to represent him in the dispute.

“We agreed twelve years ago that this was going to be an open air restaurant. It’s in the Health Department documents, it’s in the Police Department documents.”Dave Fansler, Owner Pismo’s Coastal Grill

“We really want to resolve this under a basis of common sense that’s good for the community that gives everybody confidence that absolute safety is happening here,” Fansler said.

More Than a Semantic Difference

The indoor/outdoor designation is more than just semantic. It’s at the heart of whether Fansler can keep serving guests at his popular northeast Fresno eatery.

“I want to get the city council to come over here, and sit around here, have lunch and see,” says Fansler. “We agreed twelve years ago that this was going to be an open air restaurant. It’s in the health department documents, it’s in the police department documents.”

To back him up, Fansler has brought in a well-known litigator with a reputation for winning big dollar awards in lawsuits. According to the website for the law firm of Baradat & Paboojian, Inc. , “Mr. Paboojian has obtained over $100,000,000.00 in verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients.”

GV Wire℠ reached out to the Fresno city attorney’s office to ask if any meetings were scheduled between the parties. So far, there has been no response.

Pismo’s Remains Open

In the meantime, Fansler says Pismo’s is staying open for lunch and dinner.

He is also making phone calls to city council members and officials with the county health department to invite them into his restaurant, he says.

“I really want them to see it, because we rarely have all these windows open. When they’re open, you’re in the outside (environment),” said Fansler. “We’ve always said we were a patio. We got a unanimous vote from the health department.”

Fansler posted a project review document from 2008 to social media.

Posted by Pismo's Coastal Grill on Sunday, July 12, 2020

(via Facebook)

Fansler posted a long message on his Facebook page last week saying his restaurant can be made safe by opening its windows and turning it into a patio.

Fresno County Health Officer Weighs In

During a media briefing on July 6, the county’s interim health officer, Dr. Rais Vohra, responded to Fansler’s statements.

“We’re asking for clarification. But as it stands now, the open windows would not be enough to consider that outdoor dining. I know that that’s a somewhat controversial statement. But as it stands, it’s still considered indoor dining with open windows. And, as the mandate from the state requires, that would not be permitted,” Vohra said.

“But as it stands now, the open windows would not be enough to consider that outdoor dining. I know that that’s a somewhat controversial statement.”Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County interim Health Officer

Fansler says he’s received three citations for operating an indoor restaurant since the state’s order went into effect July 1. The California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control confirmed two of those citations in an email to GV Wire℠.

Powerful Air Flow System

Fansler says the air system he installed twelve years ago cost $100,000. Customers seated next to any of the windows feel something akin to a stiff breeze.

Pismo’s owner Dave Fansler sits on the windowsill demonstrating the air blowing his shirt from his ventilation system. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

In addition, Fansler says he spent a considerable amount of money installing an evaporation system to work in tandem with the air conditioning. He’s hopeful the health department will recognize his $250,000 investment helps to keep customers safe.

Large pipes in the ceiling help ventilate and circulate the air inside Pismo’s. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

“They’re just not used to having a patio this nice. This is sort of like a five million dollar tent is what this is,” Fansler said.

On Pismo’s social media pages, Fansler has posted a video he’s narrated that describes the operation of the restaurant’s air flow system.

Health Dept ruled in 2009 zpismos was an open air restaurant. Happy Sunday, we’re open today and please watch the video

Posted by David Fansler on Sunday, July 12, 2020

(Courtesy of Pismo’s Coastal Grill)

Middle Ground

Fansler believes there’s room for an amicable solution. He’ll let the decision makers come to the solution, he says, but believes the tables nearest the windows are an ideal setting to eat a meal.

“Maybe open up the first two rows around the perimeter. Whatever makes sense,” says Fansler. “There’s certainly some middle ground in here I think for us to get it resolved quickly.”

Pismo’s customers seated near the windows and separated by partitions. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

He says if the tables nearest the windows were approved for use, that equates to about 30% of the restaurant’s total seating capacity.

The Fresno County Health Department says Pismo’s is still considered an indoor dining location despite the dining area’s large open windows and powerful air flow system. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

18 Responses

  1. Dee Ann Smith

    I had lunch at Pismo’s today after hearing about this on Ray Appleton’s show. It was excellent, cool, open air with great circulation, all precautions in place and the food and service were outstanding as always.

    • Diane

      So basicly you put yourself at risk of plague ‘causse Ray Appleton told you it’s cool?

      Wow! And they say Conservatives aren’t smart.


  2. Bill Thacker

    I respect Fansler for standing his ground on erratic decisions from Code Enforcement. He is also defending the 400+ employees that work in his restaurants.
    His documents say that hus restaurant is ” open air” how can cide enfircement go against their own documentation as they did with the open air traditional Harvard Street Block Yard sale.
    Nothing they do najes sense except to destroy the economy of Fresno.
    Fanskers for 40+ years have hired tens of thousands of employees in their restaurants and hotel. Many Fresno people paid for college, their first care, down payment for a home working in their restaurants.
    I hope he wins and the lawsuit makes them look like the clowns they really are.
    I hope members of city council understand they are not welcome in many business establishments.

  3. MGomez

    Dr. Vohra, the genius who was hoping Fresno County would have more confirmed Covid-19 cases back in May so the County could get more money and attention from the Federal Government. Brilliant strategy.

  4. Wayne Steffen

    Mr. Fanlser seems more worried about the money he’s spent and his own opinion than anything else. So much so that he’s hired an expensive lawyer to further empty his wallet going after the county when it sounds like his problem is with the state. As for “patio” dining, I can call my Honda a supercar and spend tons on a custom paint job–that doesn’t make it a Ferrari. (And yes, I’ve been to Pismo’s.)

    • Steve Jordan

      How many businesses have you started and how many jobs have YOU created? I’m offended by your complete ignorance about what makes a business work, the commitment it takes, and how sincerely most business owners care about their employees. You also show an astounding ignorance as to how every business and every person is connected. They are all essential to making a good economy. Tell us, where would these 400 people work if this, or any of the dozens of other businesses, closed because of government dictates? It’s not just 400 jobs; because of the business needs, it creates hundreds and thousands of other jobs. Your flippant attitude is disgusting and dangerous.

    • ashley

      you obviously are a cov-idiot! This has gone tooo, tooo, far. Numbers don’t lie. So far we have had 90 odd deaths due to this “virus”. Now get down to it, population of fresno county is 1 million, that translates to 9 deaths per 100000 population. Heart disease has a mortality rate of 140 deaths per 100000 population, guess we should or should have shut every thing down because of the rampant uncontrolled morbidity of heart disease, uh?? This is all about destroying the economy of the USA, and Calif, and Fresno. Remember, liberalism is a MENTAL DISORDER.

  5. concerned voter

    I felt the Fresno Bee article was incredibly unfair. It tried to paint the picture that Mr. Fansler received a bunch of money and therefore he should shut up. The PPP loan was based on 2.5 months of payroll so a $2.5M PPP loan means a $1 million/MONTHLY payroll. It is incredibly hard to profitably operate ANY restaurant and virtually impossible under lockdown. That amount of money will buy some time but it won’t prevent the bleeding. An owner is still responsible for fixed costs such as permanent staff, rent, utilities, insurance etc. I think a reasonable accommodation can be worked out and is in everyone’s best interest. To vilify a businessman for trying to avoid bankruptcy and protecting jobs is class warfare at its worst while reporters continue to draw their paycheck and throw personal jabs about the food being just OK.
    I am all for safety but some empathy for the business owner who stand a good chance of going bankrupt is in order.

    • mgomez

      Mr. Fansler has a lot more respect and credibility with the Fresno community than the bankrupt Fresno Bee and that reality-challenged “reporter” Marek Warszawski.

  6. Alex E

    I hope Dave Fansler and his attorney take the Fresno County Health Department to the cleaners. The silent majority is SICK AND TIRED of left-wing American Value Terrorists taking away our rights. Thoughts and feelings now trump facts and logic in our society…and we are doomed until facts and logic return to society.

  7. Steve

    None of the facts justify what is being done to businesses in Fresno and across the state. The health dept and the city council are obscuring the important data to justify their dictatorial behavior. #1: they are reporting total infections at 8200 (FAKE, we know that there is a large false positive rate), extensive studies have shown that the REAL infection rate is at LEAST 20 times higher than positive tests show. That means that in Fresno County, at least 160,000 have or had the virus, with 89 deaths. That is a death rate of 0.05%; not the 1.1% that “they” want us to believe. That is less than the seasonal flu deaths; which have all but disappeared for some un-admitted to reason. Don’t forget that the CDC admitted to at least a 25% over-count on deaths. I believe it’s closer to 50%. Dr. Birx said the death count cannot be trusted. One can only guess at the reasons for lying to us and scaring people beyond reason. Infection rates are totally irrelevant, it’s deaths and hospitalizations that matter.

    There are approximately 1800 hospital beds in Fresno County, with 269 being ICU beds. As of last night, there were only 40 Covid patients in ICU beds and another 177 in regular beds. Here is a question that IS NOT BEING ANSWERED by Vohra or the city council: how many of those patients are actually in the hospital FOR Covid or just WITH Covid? Why are “they” hiding that information? It’s important to know to make decisions. They are hoping you don’t ask those questions. Let’s just say those stats are truthful, which I thoroughly doubt, that is only about 13% of the total beds. As an example, CRMC usually only runs at about 70% bed capacity. The supposed Covid patients are only taking up 14.8% of the ICU beds, and about the same of the total beds. How the hell can that be an emergency? IT’S NOT, they are lying to us. WHY? You would have to ask our “Betters” on the city council. Forget asking the mayor, he doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp anymore.

    Did putting us all on house arrest stop people from getting the Chinese Flu? No, only delayed it and caused more unnecessary deaths and financial destruction which is only just beginning to be felt. People are wearing masks everywhere, has it helped? No. The Chinese Flu virus will lay in wait, it will not go away. That’s how virus’s have always worked, and always will (Vohra knows this). The mayor, the city council, and the governor are knowingly murdering people outside of the virus. MORE people died from SUICIDE in June than died from the virus. They also own the blame for the increase in spousal and child abuse, and drug overdoses. Property crime increases? They own that one as well. These people are either completely incompetent, or they are doing this for nefarious reasons. Who will YOU work for when your employer goes bankrupt? Stand and Fight.

  8. Bob K

    These are trying times for all of us and I am saddened to conclude that Americans, for the first time in my life, have not been kind nor considerate of others–it’s all about “ME FIRST and I don’t give a damn about YOU or your health” This is obvious by the failure of each and every one of us to wear masks and to abide by common sense–and kindness–in our social interactions. It saddens me to see this one-great country reduced to the ranks of the third world in our number of cases of Covid and our inability to practice self-control and concerned respect for each other. Shame on us and bravo for Europe. We will live with this stain for many, many years to come. That being said, in addition to the medical health of our ENTIRE population, we must consider the financial health of good people, like the wonderful individuals who work at Pismo’s in an atmosphere which makes it feel that each and every one of us who are privileged to eat there are truly “at home.” Dave Fansler has created an atmosphere which is over-the-top concerned with his patrons, who he treats, and considers to be, friends. Take a look at Pismo’s and then go to a Target, Costco, and the like and you tell me where you feel safest. There are many other restaurants which qualify as ‘outdoor seating’ but they do not have the air circulation and sanitation which Dave has brought to Pismo’s. Why do government leaders behave like blind sheep, or lemmings, and not use common sense? I can name ten other ‘outdoor eating’ establishments which are not being harassed by health and safety authorities–and I appreciate these governmental groups have a legitimate job to do–and a diffiuclt one at that. However, government must operate with a compassionate brain and heart for its citizens. If anyone can tell me why the factors which have led the Governor to allow OUTDOOR seating at restaurants do NOT apply to Pismo’s, well, I’m waiting for that honest answer. Let’s be smart, protect ourselves and others, but not overreact and kill local businesses who comply–no, MORE than comply–with the objectives and requirements for remaining open and safely serving their patrons.

  9. Paul

    Pismo’s was my favorite restaurant …. not anymore. I will no longer support this “selective” watering hole.

    • mgomez

      Fantastic news, Paul. That means more open tables for the rest of us.

      Enjoy your pizza.

    • ashley

      you sound like a real loser, buddy! Bet you’re the type of brain dead dude, who wears his mask tight over 70% of his face in your car with all the windows shut. Move to wuhan.

  10. Melissa

    I 100% support Mr. Fansler, for the people who do not that’s ok, the great thing is we live in a country where we all can have different opinions and openly state those opinions. Another great thing is if you do not agree with what he is doing, you do not have to eat there.

  11. Amber

    So self absorbed. I used to think we all looked out for one another but it seems money has become more important than our brothers and sisters in Christ. My husband is an RN in the city of Fresno and he has seen a dramatic rise is cases and with around a 40% mortality rate among those cases in the last two weeks. This is worse then what we’ve been seeing in the months before. The infection is spreading because adults find it too hard to wear a mask. A mask?? Wow!! We’re adults not children !! Even 1 death is too many when we can do our part. Support each other the way you’re supporting this business owner who has a commercial running on CNN every commercial break. That’s extremely costly but he’s hurting financially…hmmmm


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