Some Fresno non-essential businesses owners searching for answers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A warning comes first, sometimes taped to the windows of a business deemed non-essential under Fresno's shelter in place order.

If they stay open, code enforcement officers will issue a $1,000 citation.

They've ticketed 11 businesses so far, and they've never had to escalate from there.

Smoke shops and vape shops make up a majority of the fines, and city council President Miguel Arias says some of their owners are now trying to pretend their shops are something they aren't.

"We've had some smoke shops and vape shops try and get around the system by re-registering their business name and adding "market" after their business, trying to become essential when they're clearly not essential," he said.

At Tint Pros on N. Blackstone, owner Alex Garcia says his citation resulted from a couple of misunderstandings.

They misunderstood whether they were essential. After they found out they weren't, they scheduled appointments for the day the city was originally set to reopen.

He says he's not upset at code enforcement. He just wants a firm date for when he can get back to work.

"I literally have 20 appointments already for May 6," Garcia said. "So what's going to happen May 6, I'm going to call everybody up. If they extend it, I'm going to have to call everybody and cancel all over again."

What's worse is he thinks he's losing business to competitors who don't have the same level of enforcement.

"The frustrating part is that we in Fresno, we have to stay closed," Garcia said. "But then we have Clovis, and although they should be closed too, code enforcement isn't as active as Fresno is."

Fresno and Clovis have very different enforcement approaches.

Clovis is operating under the rules of the state's stay at home order, and the police department is in charge of enforcement in addition to their public safety responsibilities.

Fresno issues its own, stricter shelter in place rules and has 50 code enforcement officers enforcing them.

Car window tinting may not be considered essential under either set of rules.

"My hope would be every jurisdiction would enforce the rules of the shelter in place in the state of California," Garcia said. "But we know they all have limited resources, and not all of them have a team as big as we do of code enforcement officers."

Clovis city officials say they haven't gotten any complaints about window tinting businesses, and if they get one, they'd assess it and reach out to the state for guidance.

In Fresno, it's just one of almost 800 complaints about rules violations over the last five weeks.
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