Hot Mama's 2

Walla Walla farmer Jeff Schulke drops off a load of pumpkins at Hot Mama’s Espresso in October 2019 for a Ronald McDonald House charity event at the coffee shop.

Owners at Hot Mama’s Espresso at 1447 W. Pine St., are disputing a fine from state regulators related to COVID-19 and masks.

According to a release from the Washington state Department of Labor & Industries on Friday, the coffee shop was one of nine Washington businesses to receive a fine for failure to uphold mask-wearing or social distancing requirements.

Walla Walla County Commissioner-elect Jenny Mayberry, who is co-owner of the shop, said the $2,400 fine is related to an incident with a customer who happened to be present during a visit from L&I staff about two months ago.

Mayberry said the woman who was within 4 feet of the door did not put her face mask back on when leaving her table and exiting the business.

“I’m assuming that she just forgot to put it back on when she stood up to leave,” Mayberry said Saturday. “... L&I wanted us to go out and tell her to come back in and put her face covering on, which we refused to do and in return we got a $2,400 fine.”

Mayberry said they were not being flippant about the rules and she was adamant that the fine had nothing to do with her employees’ practices.

“We also have not had one single case traced back to Hot Mama’s Espresso,” she said.

According to the release, Hot Mama’s was also fined for not having signage regarding masks.

Mayberry said her company is complying with state laws.

“I was also the only business in Walla Walla County that was turned in by the ... health department,” Mayberry said.

Mayberry said she has submitted a public records request through the county “for all of the information” pertaining to what prompted the L&I investigation in the first place.

Department of Community Health representatives were not available Saturday to reply to a request for comment.

A public hearing will be held by L&I on Dec. 4, regarding the appeal from Hot Mama’s. The details of how to join the public hearing are unclear at this time, although the department’s website should list the hearing before it happens.

L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health Assistant Director Anne Soiza said in the release the fines against businesses were for the protection of all.

“This is about the safety of workers and protecting our communities,” Soiza said. “We know how very hard this is for everyone, but it’s going to take all of us working together to drive the number of new cases down.”

According to a report from Patch.com, only 20 Washington businesses have been cited since July regarding violations related to pandemic restrictions.

Hot Mama’s was the only area business cited.

The others were:

  • Agate Store, Shelton — A market fined $7,500 for allegedly not enforcing employee or customer mask use and other non-COVID safety violations. The business has appealed.
  • My Good Market #5082, Lacey — Fined $6,000 for allegedly not enforcing customer mask use, not taking employee temperatures. An appeal has not been received.
  • Hwy 99 Tire Center, Vancouver — Fined $4,500 for not enforcing employee or customer mask use and lack of a written safety program. The business did not appeal.
  • Skagit Arms, Burlington — A firearm and ammunition store fined $3,600 for allegedly not requiring employees or customers to wear masks and for violating social distancing rules. The business has 15 days to appeal.
  • Hot Toddy’s Coffee, Spokane — Fined $3,000 for employees not wearing masks or social distancing. Did not appeal.
  • Second Wind Espresso Inc. #2, Spokane — Fined $1,800 for employees allegedly not wearing masks or social distancing. The business has appealed.
  • The Ugly Duck Inc., Spokane — The building materials warehouse store was fined $1,200 for employees not wearing masks. Did not appeal.
  • Red Carpet Car Wash, Sequim — Fined $900 for employees allegedly not wearing masks. The business has appealed.

Jedidiah Maynes can be reached at jedidiahmaynes@wwub.com or 509-526-8318.

Jedidiah Maynes is the managing editor of Walla Walla Lifestyles magazine. He also writes about business news in the Valley and covers a variety of others topics on occasion. He enjoys making music and puns.