Griffins of Kinsale owner Joseph Patrick Griffin, who on March 17, 2020 became possibly the first person to be criminally cited for violating the LA County Health Department’s Covid-19 order closing bars and pubs and restricting restaurants, has accepted an offer from the LA County’s District Attorney’s office to serve 80 hours of community service. He was facing a sentence of up to 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.
One day after the County’s Covid Order was issued, Griffin was cited by South Pasadena police for failing to comply with repeated directions to close down a long-planned St. Patrick’s Day celebration at his South Pasadena “public house” on Mission Street, which is licensed as a bar/tavern/wine-tasting business.
On June 10, Griffin was charged with one misdemeanor count of “knowingly” violating the state’s health and safety code. He pled not guilty.
During a hearing Jan. 7 before Judge Carol W. Elswick at the Alhambra Courthouse, Griffin accepted an offer of “informal diversion” for a period of 6 months; completion of 80 hours of community service through the Volunteer Center, Goodwill or the Salvation Army; and completion of the Covid-19 Safety Compliance Certification program for business owners and employees. He must also obey all laws, “including any orders of the Department of Public Health.”
Griffin, who lives in Lakeview Terrace, was not present for the hearing. The offer was accepted on his behalf by his attorney, Steve Escovar. Through a spokesperson, Escovar declined comment. Griffin could not be reached Friday.
The court set another hearing for July 7. If Griffin has complied with the diversion program by then, the District Attorney’s office said, the case will be dismissed.
Diverted cases are dismissed if a defendant completes the diversion requirement, such as a training or community service. But under “informal diversion,” entry of a guilty plea is deferred until after the defendant completes the diversion requirement, freeing them from the possibility of having to report the plea on applications for gun permits or public sector jobs.
The health department also issued Griffin a citation in connection with his health permit. That matter was resolved separately.
Meantime the city of South Pasadena has yet to decide whether it will take any action with respect to Griffin’s business license. Interim Police Chief Brian Solinsky told the South Pasadenan News the city is awaiting the final disposition of Griffin’s court case. He said SPPD will work with the Planning Department, which administers business licenses, on the question.
Solinsky said the case remains the only major violation SPPD has seen. In making its decision, he said, the city will be sensitive to both the health of the community and to the business community and the struggle it’s been going through adapting to the changing covid rules and the pandemic’s impact on them.
“It’s not good for anyone to close a business,” he said, and “you couldn’t ask for a worse time than at a pub on St Patricks’ Day.” He said police tried to get compliance, but calls complaining the party was ongoing continued to come in, causing the police to return and issue the citation. The Health Department was also getting calls and showed up as well. That’s when the pub was forced to close down.
There’ve been no problems since then, he added.