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Mount Shasta mayor opened pub on Super Bowl Sunday despite COVID order

Kelsey Shelton
Mount Shasta Herald

Mount Shasta's city council meeting became heated Monday evening when councilor Tim Stearns called out Mayor John Redmond for opening his pub against the state's COVID-19 directive and demanded that he step down as mayor.

Stearns said Redmond, who owns Handsome John's Speakeasy on Mount Shasta's Chestnut Street – has an obligation to comply with the laws and set an example as a leader in the community.

Mount Shasta's mayor John Redmond, left, and city councilor Tim Stearns in screenshots of a Feb. 8, 2021 council meeting, held via Zoom.

"My understanding is that the governor's directive does not allow bars or restaurants in Siskiyou County to be open," said Stearns during the Feb. 8 meeting, held remotely via Zoom. "I know it's frustrating and an economic loss situation, but my understanding from our mayor is that he had Handsome John's open this past Sunday for Super Bowl, and perhaps before that – and it wasn't just for takeout."

Redmond – who was attending the meeting from a quiet Handsome John's – fired back, asking if Stearns was suggesting the city "shut down everything that's going on" despite the fact that Mount Shasta's economy runs on tourism.

"We have hundreds and hundreds of people coming to the ski park and visiting our town, so we just shut Main Street down so they don't have anywhere to go?" Redmond said. "Do we change everything to become a church, because they can stay open, or do we change our name to 'The French Laundry' and invite Governor Newsom?" 

Since Nov. 17, 2020, Siskiyou County has been in the most restrictive purple tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which prohibits bars, breweries and distilleries from operating with the exception of those serving sitdown, outdoor meals. Restaurants can be open outdoors only with modifications.

In a follow up interview on Tuesday morning, Redmond said his pub has a full kitchen and serves sushi and pizzas, so Handsome John's is technically a restaurant, not a bar. He said there is ample outdoor seating and pointed out his pub is "far from the only one" in the city and county that has reopened.

"I've got my bills to pay," Redmond pointed out.

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"From my perspective, you have an obligation to either comply with the law, and if you aren't going to comply with the law you ought to step down as mayor, or the council will censure you, at the very least," said Stearns during the meeting.

As the back-and-forth exchanges between Stearns and Redmond became more fiery, council member Tessa Montgomery interceded. 

"I think we should probably note this as being heard and move on, if that's ok. ... I'm not sure this is the appropriate platform for that and there are certain items that can be held in some discretion," Montgomery said.

Siskiyou County's Public Health Department sent out a press release on Jan. 28 that reminded restaurant owners that Siskiyou County is still in the purple tier.

"We know that there are many restaurants open, or opening, for indoor dining and we want to make sure that they are aware that under the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, they are not allowed to be open for indoor dining," said Angelica Cook, a spokesperson for the public health department on Tuesday afternoon.

The entire Mount Shasta City Council meeting was recorded can be seen at the city's website.