Fernbridge Cafe free of any further regulatory snafus
A sad interlude of bureaucratic intransigence and red tape-slinging has come to an end as Humboldt County officials announced today the dismissal of all criminal charges against Steve Sterback, the owner of the Fernbridge Market and Cafe.
“Ultimately, the District Attorney’s Office determined that dismissal of the pending charges would be in the interest of justice, given the fact that the issues identified by the County have been addressed and the Café has been legally open and operating for some time,” Deputy District Attorney Kelly Neel stated in a release today.
It all started over a year ago, when the Humboldt County Division of Environmental Health suspended Sterback’s food facility permit due to water quality issues — despite the assurances of the owner that he was using bottled water during the period that a nearby water supply was temporarily contaminated by runoff. After the March suspension, the DA pressed charges in April 2011 on three counts of operating a food facility without a permit, which would constitute a violation of California Health and Safety Code section 114381.
Numerous attempts to set the case for trial, only to be frustrated by the lack of an available courtroom and unavailable witnesses; during this time, the county was under public pressure to allow Sterback to stay in business, and with the water quality issue cleared up, Sterback had re-obtained his permit and was legally open and operating for several months.
The case was set for trial numerous times, but each time was continued for reasons that included lack of an available courtroom and unavailable witnesses. In the meantime, the People and Mr. Sterback worked at trying to resolve the case. Ultimately, the District Attorney’s Office determined that dismissal of the pending charges would be in the interest of justice, given the fact that the issues identified by the County have been addressed and the Café has been legally open and operating for some time.
“At this point, the County is satisfied that Mr. Sterback is operating in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations and continues its oversight of the Cafe’s operations,” Deputy District Attorney Christa McKimmy, who handled the prosecution for the People, stated today.