Lack of COVID protocol enforcement at Contra Costa Co. restaurants reported

At Jack's Restaurant in Pleasant Hill Monday, the staff was checking each customer's COVID-19 vaccine status and their identification before seating them inside.

In short, they are following the Contra Costa County health order.

But the county has received complaints about at least 54 restaurants in November that were not complying with the order. Yet health officials did not fine any of them for following the rules.

Fines can range from $250 to $750.

"It's their guideline. It's their rule. They should be stepping up in some way to enforce it, so it is not left up to a 17-year-old host," said co-owner Chris Marcovici.

"I'm troubled by it. And unhappy with it. If there are fines that deserve to be issued they should be issued," said county Supervisor John Gioia.

Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano says the approach has been to educate first rather than penalize. More carrot than stick.

"We will still level penalties as needed when there is repeated and persistent lack of compliance," he said.

In September, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and the City of Berkeley were the only places in the Bay Area to begin mandating that restaurants, bars, and gyms check each customers' proof of vaccine or a recent COVID test before allowing them inside.

Many restaurants say it has not been easy. Sometimes customers yell at staff.

"We've walked out a couple of times to intervene to say this 17-year-old from high school didn't make this rule," said Marcovici.

The county did crack down on In-N-Out Burger in Pleasant Hill for openly refusing to check.

That restaurant currently does not have indoor dining.

"The public needs to be protected, especially with the Omicron Variant. We need to be serious about this," said Gioia.

"We can expect that as more and more businesses understand the rules, hopefully, we can have the complaints go down," said Marcovici.