A popular California tourist destination is saying thanks, but no thanks to the state’s recent stay-at-home order, even as coronavirus cases continue to surge.
The just about 6,000-person city defied Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders, which took effect on Tuesday and extend through Jan. 4.
The restrictions mandate that in-person dining cease… as well as bars, museums, family entertainment centers, and personal care services also close up shop.
Last week, Solvang’s one-term Mayor Ryan Toussaint filed an emergency motion in a city council meeting that the town would not follow the lockdown order. The motion passed unanimously 5-0.
In a December 7 letter to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, Touissant previously wrote that business owners and residents had expressed “significant concerns” about shutdowns to the council.
“The community of Solvang has done a great job at being mindful, safe and responsible while keeping our local economy going during these challenging times,” he said. “The current order by the State is ill-conceived, unnecessary and quite frankly negligent when it comes to protecting our community in a safe, balanced and sane manner.”
Two days later, Touissant penned a letter to the city calling Newsom’s actions “nothing short of disastrous.”
Solvang, a 40-minute drive away from downtown Santa Barbara, relies heavily on its small businesses — especially during the holiday season.
The Danish-themed businesses — some selling hand-carved nutcrackers and others mulled wine during “Julefest” — earned the Central Coast treasure the title of one of the country’s best “Christmas towns.”
Store owners told SF Gate on Friday that revenue from December helped Solvang through the traditionally-slow January.
In addition, the city’s previous shutdown led employees to spend any federal aid doled out at the beginning of the pandemic.
The city has asked local law enforcement not to discipline businesses as they continue to operate, arguing that the county’s intensive care unit capacity is above the 15% threshold which the state says necessitates closures.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department told The Santa Ynez Valley Star on Dec. 8 that they would “make every effort to use discretion, education and encouragement to achieve voluntary compliance, but enforcement options will remain a tool to be used in cases of repeat or egregious violations that endanger public safety.”
Nevertheless, as a part of the Southern California region, Solvang and Santa Barbara County are tied to Los Angeles, prompting an appeal for a Central Coast region.
Santa Barbara County cases have trended upward in December, according to data from the Santa Barbara County Community Data Dashboard.
On Saturday, the Golden State broke its records for new cases at 35,729, as well as daily hospitalizations and deaths: 12,444 and 225 respectively.