042921 hixenbaugh

Kurt Hixenbaugh, 49, Vino et Amicis wine bar owner, bottom left, was represented by Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, bottom right, on April 29 during a court arraignment in Santa Maria. Hixenbaugh was charged with four misdemeanors on March 26 for violating COVID-19 health orders after he opted not to close his bar following a December statewide lockdown. 

An Orcutt wine bar owner charged with misdemeanors over violating COVID-19 health orders made his first court appearance last week but did not enter a plea. 

Kurt Hixenbaugh, 49, who owns Vino et Amicis in Old Town Orcutt, opted against closing his bar after a statewide lockdown order in December. As a result, he was charged with two counts of violating the state's stay-at-home emergency health order and two counts of violating the county health officer's order on Dec. 11, 2020 and Jan. 21, 2020.

The complaint was filed by the District Attorney's Office via Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which cited Hixenbaugh for not closing.

Hixenbaugh appeared via Zoom on April 29, along with his attorney, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, who also represents Orcutt in the state Assembly. Cunningham filed a demurrer, stating the violations are too vague or uncertain. 

The complaint can be clarified, although that may not happen if Hixenbaugh complies with the requirements of the state's reopening plan. On April 20, Santa Barbara County moved into the orange tier, the state's second-least-restrictive reopening tier. In that tier, bars are only permitted to operate outdoors, according to health officials. 

The tier system will remain in place until June 15, when Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to allow the state's economy to "fully reopen," according to Chief Deputy District Attorney John Savrnoch. 

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"We’re just asking for compliance, which is all we’ve wanted," said Savrnoch, adding he might not proceed with the case after June 15. 

Neither Cunningham nor Hixenbaugh returned calls for comment. 

Hixenbaugh is scheduled to appear via Zoom for a continued arraignment at 8:30 a.m. June 15 conducted from Department 9 of Superior Court in Santa Maria. 

Coronavirus: Impact, response to COVID-19 on the Central Coast

We are working hard to get answers about the impact and reaction to the coronavirus in Santa Barbara County, this is a collection of those stories.

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