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Businesses everywhere are struggling to keep afloat during this COVID-19 crisis while still adhering to the guidelines set out to help curb the spread.

The Cabrillo Playhouse is no exception. Our theatre closed in mid-February, and our entire season had to be canceled and refunds issued.

In October, we decided to hold small concerts on our patio following all of the COVID guidelines. We were within the outdoor concert guidelines of under 100 people. We would have about 25. 

Tables were safely spaced and masks were required of those attending until seated. Our staff also wore masks. Our patrons were thrilled to be coming back to the playhouse.

Shortly thereafter, we received a notice from the Code Compliance Division that we needed a “special permit” to hold these performances. The patio is part of the theatre, which we own and in which we do business (perform plays and concerts).

We were stunned to learn that we had been fined $100. Do we need a permit to perform our plays inside the theatre, too?

The Board met and decided to take the option of a hearing to argue our point and be heard. After requesting a hearing, a letter was received stating: “Based on City staff’s estimate of the costs of the hearing, the deposit required to proceed with the hearing is $1,159.19.”

The Cabrillo Playhouse has been entertaining audiences here in San Clemente since 1953. We draw patrons from all over Southern Orange County and beyond. They spend money at our downtown businesses.

Might someone from the compliance department have made a call and talked to us about this before posting a notice on our door and slapping a fine on us? The city has never really done anything to promote or support this valuable asset, yet we continue to grow. We can’t afford the $1,500, but we would humbly request to be heard. Is that really too much to ask?

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