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Embattled Owner Faces More Fines, but Vows To Keep Restaurant Open. Who Else Has Been Cited?
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 4 years ago on
December 9, 2020

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The ‘Waffle Shop‘ in northwest Fresno is staying open for indoor dining despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest stay at home order.

“There’s no data proving that it’s (COVID-19) is coming from the restaurants,” owner Ammar Ibrahim tells GV Wire℠ by phone. He says he plans to stay open no matter what happens. Ibrahim backed down earlier this year when faced with potential $10,000 fines.

“There’s no data proving that it’s (COVID-19) is coming from the restaurants.”Waffle Shop owner Ammar Ibrahim

Ibrahim has already received two new citations from city inspectors. He is still facing fines of $1,000 and $5,000 he received back in the early days of the pandemic. Ibrahim has a court hearing on December 16 and is hoping the judge will not only cancel his fines canceled, but also allow him to remain open moving forward.

Fresno Councilmember Mike Karbassi tells GV Wire℠ the city is trying to take a more educational approach when it comes to enforcement of COVID orders. Back in May, Karbassi suggested eliminating some of the previously issued fines for pandemic-related citations. But, according to the city attorney’s office, no fines have been waived.

Fresno Code Enforcement Actions

On Wednesday, the city provided the most up to date list of businesses that have been cited by code enforcement for a myriad of pandemic related issues:

Social distancing complaints: 1,646
Social distancing noticed/educated: 1,171
Social distancing citations:

$250 Citation
• Dog House Grill at 2789 E Shaw (4/26/20)
• WinCo Foods at 4488 W Shaw (5/27/20)
• WalMart at 7065 N Ingram (5/29/20)
• WalMart at 4080 W Shaw (5/30/20)
• Clawson Motorsports at 6334 N Blackstone (6/8/20)
• Bobby Salazar’s at 725 E Olive (6/15/20)
• Arco AMPM at 780 E Nees (7/3/20)
• Fit Republic at 6735 N First (7/11/20)
• Popeyes at 3004 N Blackstone (7/12/20)
• Warrior Fitness at 8039 N Cedar (9/3/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/16/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/17/20)
• Pumpkin City at 3567 W Shaw (10/19/20)
• Las Micheladas at 1416 E Shaw (10/22/20)
• Waffle Shop at 4025 W Figarden (10/29/20)
• Fort Washington Fitness at 9471 N Fort Washington (11/30/20)
• Fit Republic at 6735 N First (11/30/20)
• Sandwich Works at 2599 E Ashlan (12/1/20)

$500 Citation
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/18/20)
• Waffle Shop at 4025 W Figarden (12/3/20)

$1,000 Citation
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/19/20)
• Pumpkin City at 3567 W Shaw (10/20/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/20/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/21/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/22/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/23/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/24/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/25/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/26/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/27/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/28/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/29/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/30/20)
• Planet Pumpkin at 640 E Nees (10/31/20)

Open business complaints: 1,566
Open businesses noticed: 545
Open business citations:

$1,000 Citation
• High Society Smoke Shop at 1124 W Shields (3/28/20)
• 559 Cigarettes and More at 1219 Fresno (3/29/20)
• A Better Bed at 2686 N Clovis #106 (4/2/20)
• A&W Surplus at 3330 N Duke (4/10/20)
• Smoke Zone at 3777 N Hughes (4/10/20)
• The Spot Smoke Shop at 5665 N Blackstone (4/15/20)
• Dre36 Gym at 2940 E Nees #101 (4/16/20)
• Tint Pros at 6155 N Blackstone (4/18/20)
• Satyr Vapor at 7016 N Maple (4/19/20)
• Furniture For You at 5193 N Blackstone (4/19/20)
• Crazy Bernie Furniture at 4224 W Shaw (4/23/20)
• Brothers Barbers at 2046 W Bullard (4/30/20)
• Halo Jiu-Jitsu at 3980 N Chestnut (5/7/20)
• Waffle Shop at 4025 W Figarden (5/8/20)
• Wine Barrel at 1105 E Champlain (5/9/20)
• Elbow Room at 731 W San Jose (5/13/20)
• Warrior Fitness at 8039 N Cedar (5/29/20)
• Club Pilates at 7735 N Blackstone #101 (6/2/20)
• The Shanty at 375 E Shaw (6/6/20)
• Mr. Manicure & Co. at 4974 E Ashlan (6/8/20)
• Milan Nails and Spa Too at 9525 N Sommerville #107 (6/25/20)
• Fit Republic at 6735 N First (7/24/20)
• Gateway Ice Center at 2473 N Marks (8/5/20)
• Venus Nail and Spa at 9415 N Fort Washington #108 (8/18/20)
• Salon Posh at 1140 N Van Ness #104 (8/20/20)
• Milan Nails and Spa Too at 9525 N Sommerville #107 (8/26/20)
• The Camp Transformation Center at 4323 N Blackstone #101 (9/8/20)
• Mariscos Costa Azul at 3874 N Blackstone (9/10/20)

$5,000 Citation
• Crazy Bernie Furniture at 4224 W Shaw (4/29/20)
• The Spot Smoke Shop at 5665 N Blackstone (4/29/20)
• Waffle Shop at 4025 W Figarden (5/10/20)
• Warrior Fitness at 8039 N Cedar (6/4/20)
• Club Pilates at 7735 N Blackstone #101 (6/4/20)
• Fit Republic at 6735 N First (7/27/20)

Price gouging complaints: 449
Price gouging citations:

$10,000 Citation
Super Liquor at 4045 W Figarden Drive

COVID-19 positive complaints: 27
Businesses educated: 27

Waffle Shop Fines

Ibrahim says he received a $250 citation a couple of weeks ago from the city alleging his employees were not wearing masks. He claims, “We had no one in here that morning.”

He opened his mailbox on Monday to find another citation carrying a $500 fine for lack of masks, violating the prohibition on indoor dining, and lack of social distancing. “On that day (December 3) of the fine, we only had 6 people in the whole building,” said Ibrahim.

He says code enforcement did not come into his establishment, but rather stayed outside and just took a photo through his windows.

Asking for Data About COVID-19 Transmission

Photo of Mike Karbassi

“We are more interested in education and compliance, not fining people.”Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi

“At the end of the day, they can’t punish you for a crime without the evidence,” says Ibrahim. “You can’t tell me I murdered somebody with no body.”

On November 17, GV Wire℠ asked Fresno County Health Director David Pomaville if he had data to show indoor dining was a source of COVID-19 spread.

“We certainly have seen a lot of cases from our contact investigation that have been transmitted in indoor environments and with people working in close proximity to one another,” said Pomaville. “It feels like the restaurant industry is being focused on, but I believe really everybody has some pain in this process right now. They (restaurants) have not been the one source that we’re most concerned about, but they are a contributor to gathering people from different families and households into common spaces and that’s where the concern is.”

Pomaville says there are studies that have been done of indoor air at restaurants and dining facilities that have caused the transmission of the disease. He says his office has seen evidence of cases in the county associated with food establishments.

On Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly was asked during a briefing with reporters to provide data he was relying on for making the decision to shut down outdoor dining.

“The decision to include, among other sectors, outdoor dining and limiting that, turning to restaurants to deliver and provide takeout options instead, really has to do with the goal of trying to keep people at home,” said Ghaly. “(This is) not a comment on the relative safety of outdoor dining.” He went on to say that outdoor dining is a lower risk activity when all the safety precautions like separating tables, increased air circulation, and mask use is implemented.

Ghaly’s comments caught the attention of California Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) who shared her thoughts on Twitter.

Education Versus Fines

Karbassi says the attitude of city leaders toward enforcement changed a few months ago. “We are more interested in education and compliance, not fining people,” says Karbassi. “We know how burdened we are.”

Karbassi acknowledges it’s a city-wide issue, but said he tries to advocate for businesses in his district. He said the Waffle Shop citations in his district were associated with health and safety concerns, which he says the city won’t be forgiving.

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