Owner of Los Angeles Café Stands for Freedom After $100,000 in COVID Fines from Health Department

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The county of Los Angeles is now strong-arming a local café for refusing to abide by the massive regulations and health codes around the pandemic. The county filed suit against the Novo Café in Westlake Village which has garnered fines that now total in the tens of thousands of dollars. 

Novo Café has simply refused to comply with the Los Angeles County health department for months now. They have kept both indoor and outdoor dining open, and they have refused to require that their employees wear face masks. 

The owner of the Novo Café, Massimo Forti, spoke with the press and said that he has no intention of submitting to the “illegal mandates.” He has maintained his position even though the county health officials have issued dozens of fines against himself and his restaurant. The total of the fines is almost $100,000. Forti has declared that he will not pay a cent of it.

Forti told one news agency that what the county is doing is both unconstitutional and illegal. He said that his fight is about defending the country’s freedoms. 

The county has accused the Novo Café of putting the health of their workers, customers, and the community they serve at risk, according to the lawsuit as reported in The Los Angeles Times. 

The Novo Café remained open to indoor and outdoor dining all through last winter, this was in direct violation of county COVID-19 rules. They have also continued to operate for nearly a year after the county pulled their public health permit. This was taken from them in February of 2021 because of repeated violations. 

The community surrounding the Novo Café has rallied around it and Forti. They are standing against the county health officials. In fact, Forti said, “The community loves us.” His customers continue to gather at the Novo in the midst of the county trying to shut them down. 

The owner has not tried to raise funds to cover the costs of the fines or their legal fees. Forti simply said that will keep fighting the county and try to figure things out as they come. 

Los Angeles County has had other struggles in enforcing its health codes requirements in many local businesses. This past August, a local news agency ran an unofficial audit of different restaurants in the area. They found that many of the eateries had customers and employees that were maskless and in violation of county codes. 

NBC4 reported after the audit, “The I-Team documented employees and customers not wearing masks indoors at restaurants across LA County–from the trendy Escuela Taqueria near The Grove to a string of eateries in the Pico-Robertson district, including the Beverly Hills Bagel Company and the Pico Café.”

The Beverly Hills Bagel Company, the Pico Care, and Escuela Taqueria all had owners that claimed to not have known that their employees were violating the county health codes. When asked by NBC4, they all promised more strict enforcement. But Forti held his line and was unapologetic when challenged by the news agency about the health codes. 

I believe in freedom of choice. So the mask is just, in my opinion, a sign of submission,” Forti said. He also noted that he would continue to fight the COVID-19 health orders on /principle. He believes that everything the health department is doing is unconstitutional. In one interview, Forti challenged more people to stand up against the Public Health Department. He said he was looking for “patriots in all industries — business, legal, everything.”