Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza was highly critical of Gov. Jay Inslee’s order banning dining at bars and restaurants while also reviving his viral “don’t be a sheep” statement on wearing masks during a recent interview with Caleb Heimlich, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.
In a short interview posted to Facebook Dec. 23, Snaza questioned the science behind closing dining at the establishments, specifically voicing support for Spiffy’s, which has amassed fines of more than $100,000 for refusing to close its dining room to customers.
Inslee has ordered all such businesses to end indoor dining as a means of slowing the spread of COVID-19. It’s the second time he’s made such an order since March, this time extending it through Jan. 4.
Snaza noted that Spiffy’s owner Rod Samuelson has been in business for 50 years and that he has been a customer for more than 30 years.
“During that time they've been open, they've been open to the community,” Snaza said in the video. “They’ve opened their hearts whether it’s donations, whether it’s supporting families. And so knowing Rod’s story was huge in making the decision that I support Spiffy’s. And I know we have laws out there, we have all these things going on, but at the same time, what is right and what is wrong? We need to stand up for our constitutional rights. So when we talk about these people, we’re talking about single moms, single parents, or dual-parent income, that both work at a restaurant. And all their livelihood is based on their business. And they're losing that, simply because someone decided to change the rulebook.”
The statement of support comes just days ahead of Spiffy’s scheduled hearing in Lewis County Superior Court. The state Department of Labor and Industries sought a restraining order against the business after issuing more than $100,000 in fines for the decision to remain open for indoor dining.
“It brings it into a whole other realm,” L&I Spokesperson Tim Church told The Chronicle last week. “If they continue to be open, we can make a motion for contempt of court.”
A hearing is set for next Tuesday, Dec. 29, when the state attorney general’s office will represent L&I. Continuing to offer indoor dining in violation of the court order is considered a gross misdemeanor, punishable by $10,000 and up to six months in jail. It could also result in a contempt of court charge, which is a criminal charge. The order notes that L&I “has a clear legal right to enforce the requirements of the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act and the rules promulgated thereunder.”
Protesters and supporters of the business have planned to gather outside the courthouse in support of the business on Tuesday as the hearing occurs.
Snaza noted in the video that restaurants and bars were already enforcing masks and social distancing when Inslee’s latest orders were announced. Additionally, he said it’s estimated that 80 percent of Lewis County residents have been wearing masks or face coverings as ordered by Inslee.
The ban on indoor service and dining “has been hurtful to our community,” Snaza said.
“Our economy is being shut down because our governor has elected to determine who is essential and who is not,” Snaza said. “And really, who has that? It seems that the people that have the paycheck are the ones that are determining who's a non-essential.”
Snaza said promises of financial reprieves for struggling businesses don’t last and that the orders continually change. He claimed that only 1 percent of COVID-19 cases are traced back to bars and restaurants, a statistic that has been highly disputed by Inslee.
“We need to stand up as conservatives, as Republicans,” Snaza said. “We need to stand up for our constitutional rights, and we need to say enough is enough, allow our people to go back to work. The data does not make sense.”
Snaza also revived his statement of “don’t be a sheep” that went viral in June when he responded to questions about Inslee’s then-recent order that all Washingtonians wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Chronicle’s footage of the exchange with supporters of the Hamilton billboard spread across the internet and appeared on network television news. He later walked it back in an interview with a Seattle television station that same week, but in the video last week appeared ready to revive it.
“When I say don’t be a sheep, I mean don’t be a sheep,” he said. “I mean listen to yourself. Check the facts out for yourself and make your own decision.”
He said he supports those who choose to wear masks, bud said it should be a two-way street.
“If you feel that you need to wear the mask, I encourage you to wear the mask,” he said. “Wear it for your safety if that makes you feel right. But also respect the rights of everybody else. Let them make their choice. This is ourself. We the people. Remember that. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This story will be updated.