California Restaurant Set on Fire Due to Mask Policy: Police

Police in Orange County are investigating whether unhappiness at a restaurant's mask policy to protect against COVID-19 spurred someone to ignite a fire in the building.

A fire that broke out at the The Cellar restaurant in Fullerton, California, on Tuesday was extinguished before there was any serious damage. However, suspicions were raised over the cause of the blaze after two signs at the top of the staircase describing state orders for dining were ripped down and burnt.

The executive chef at The Cellar restaurant in Fullerton says someone tried to set fire to the iconic establishment on Tuesday due to their mask policy. https://t.co/otiACtvwaP

— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) July 25, 2020

The signs ask people to enter the premises wearing a mask, and describe how temperature checks would be carried out, with those with a reading of above 100 degrees, being asked to reschedule their reservation to a later date. The pandemic also means that meals are served outdoors.

Executive chef Scott Rosales told CBS Los Angeles: "Someone ripped off the two signs that were just explaining the state ordinances and what you had to do to be able to dine with us and decided to burn them in one of our little display areas in front of our restaurant.

"It's kind of sad that someone wants to get rid of such a Fullerton icon, an Orange County icon, just for wearing a mask," he added.

The restaurant is a renowned local eatery which opened in 1969 in the Villa Del Sol building which is more than a century old. It has the distinction of being the venue where Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor for the second time and the booth where the acting legends dined is the restaurant's most requested table. In another touch of Hollywood glamor, the interior was designed by the same person who designed the film Pirates of the Caribbean, CBS Los Angeles reported.

Sgt. Eric Bridges with the Fullerton Police Department told the network that police are still looking for a suspect and are investigating arson.

"The businesses are trying to do their part, they are trying to stay open, trying to maintain a livelihood along with abiding by the laws and the rules," he said. Newsweek has contacted Fullerton Police for comment.

A statewide order imposed in June, backed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), requires California residents to wear face coverings in most indoor and outdoor public settings.

Coronavirus cases in California are rising and Orange County has the third-highest number of infections in the state, after Los Angeles County and Riverside County.

California restaurant
Customers dine at a restaurant in Santa Monica, California in this illustrative image. California residents to wear face coverings in most indoor and outdoor public settings. David Livingston/Getty Images