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San Bernardino Restaurant and Farm Publicly Refuses State Order Requiring Face Masks

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Riley’s Farm, known for its apple picking, restaurants, and historic reenactments, is once again under fire from the public thanks to its owner

Wales Daily Life
Apple picking
Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

A San Bernardino County farm, restaurant, and historic reenactment compound named Riley’s Farm is refusing to comply with state orders that mandate the wearing of masks in public. “Wear a mask if you want to and don’t wear one if you don’t want to,” owner James Riley said on the company’s Facebook page last week, prompting nearly 4,500 comments ranging from “Thank you for providing some normalcy” to “If they won’t follow this health ordinance, what other public health guidance are they skipping??”

Last week in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, California governor Gavin Newsom mandated the use of masks for nearly all public activities, except when actively eating/drinking, or during outdoor exercise when not within six feet of anyone else. Those who do not comply could face a misdemeanor charge and a fine. San Bernardino County says in its reopening guidelines that “businesses that plan to reopen are required to follow state guidance.” It’s unclear if Riley’s Farm is directing staff members to still wear masks, which is required for restaurants in Los Angeles County.

Riley’s Farm, located in the small community of Oak Glen, is best known for its seasonal apple picking and for its school field trips, thanks to a bevy of historical reenactments that take place on the sprawling mountainous property throughout the year. The land also houses ongoing outdoor food events, a bakery, and a historic replica restaurant called the Hawk’s Head where staff wear early American period clothing.

The Riley’s Farm social media post, which is still up on Facebook, reads:

With all due respect to the governor of California, we will continue with our existing position of tolerance for all guests and all staff: wear a mask if you want to and don’t wear one if you don’t want to. We are very small business, made even smaller by the Covid “crisis,” and we don’t have enough staff to enforce a mask policy or a social distancing policy...

We have also been informed that San Bernardino County — at a time of arson, looting, and mayhem by anarchist scum — doesn’t have the time to enforce the governor’s arbitrary edicts.

Riley also responded to a number of commenters on the post, saying things like:

Kinda weird that it’s so controversial, right? I mean if we endorsed looting, maybe we could be stars on CNN.

This is a really smart virus. Apparently it doesn’t even affect looters or vandals — just people who want to go to the beach.

At a time when so many looting, fire-starting thug-scum are causing real havoc, local law enforcement has to decide if “mask patrol” for an epidemic that has 99.8% survival rate is worth their time. We think “no.”

The company has also posted photos showing the patio dining area and multiple people without masks and little social distancing.

This isn’t the first time that owner James Riley has come under fire. Last year, Riley lost some of his field trip business after a number of misogynistic, racist, and homophobic tweets allegedly made by Riley surfaced, including some decrying “black supremacy” as a problem in America. Riley sued at least one school district for cancelling a planned field trip. Eater reached out to Riley’s Farm for official comment, but has not heard back.