Who is Chris Castleman? California cafe owner charges mask-wearing patrons $5 extra

Last year, when slammed with a second citation for failure to adhere to pandemic regulations, Castleman had closed his store instead of complying


                            Who is Chris Castleman? California cafe owner charges mask-wearing patrons $5 extra
Signs outside Chris Castleman's North California cafe in Mendocino warn customers of extra fees for wearing masks and talking about vaccines (Fiddleman's Cafe)
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MENDOCINO, CALIFORNIA: A Northern California cafe mandated a peculiar new store policy where mask-wearing customers will be charged an extra $5. Baffled customers were greeted by a giant poster on the glass window at Fiddlehead's Cafe in Mendocino that intimated them of the extra charges for ordering with masks, and also for "bragging" about their vaccines. Incidentally enough, the cafe owner has previously voiced his opinions publicly in favor of the Covid-19 vaccine.

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Identified as Chris Castleman, the owner is reportedly collecting all the extra charges levied for charity and has expressed disgust about customers getting outraged at the idea of paying up for a good cause. A neighboring business however has complained about the impact his odd mandate is having on their establishment as people keep confusing the two of them.

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Who is Chris Castleman?

The owner of Mendocino's Fiddlehead's Cafe had an odd extra charge for customers wearing a mask. From the morning of Monday, May 24, the cafe's front glass window had a giant poster pasted to it, which read in big bold print “$5 FEE ADDED TO ORDERS PLACED WHILE WEARING A FACE MASK." A second sign with a similar warning was also found in a memo located by the register of Castleman's cafe. Below the giant warning were two additional notes on each poster that intimated guests of "an additional $5 fee" incurred if they were "caught bragging" about Covid-19 vaccines. 

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Castleman, who told the outlet SFGATE these fees will go to charity, had also put up a sign on his cafe's door previously where he invited customers to “Get your free COVID-19 vaccine card here!” The sign, which was heavily circulated on social media, has since been removed. The current sign, a striking contrast to Castleman's previous stand on the vaccine, has now replaced the scene, demanding money that will allegedly be sent to the charities assisting domestic abuse victims.

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The North Bay Business Journal also reported that Castleman had been slammed with a second $10,000 citation for violating the pandemic norms last year in June. In response, rather than mandate wearing masks or other facial coverings, Castleman chose to shut shop and close his cafe for good. He had spray painted on the side of his cafe “Closed by order of Mendocino County." He had also put up a GoFundMe page to pay for his lawyers fees during the first citation and vehemently refused to issue a mask wearing mandate for customers and employees inside his store. 

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Other businesses affected

Castleman told SFGATE some customers have paid up the $5 fee without hassle, while others have objected to it and expressed outrage. Castleman didn't comment on people's outrage against the mask fee but instead chastised reluctant customers for not being charitable. “I’ve been told this whole time that wearing a mask is a small price to pay,” Castleman told the outlet. “Some people get shocked by the sign but to see them turn around and get disgusted ... when they’re asked to pay $5 [for charity], it’s not in their wheelhouse. It’s not something they’re choosing to do.”

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Castleman's cafe's Yelp page has since been disabled too to not attract potential negative reviews following the signs placed on Monday. But neighboring restaurant Mendocino Cafe has earned a lot of unwanted negative attention before of their close proximity to Castleman's business. Mendocino Cafe's owner Meredith Smith told the outlet “What’s happening is that we’re on the same corner. I get a lot of feedback directed at him. They think I’m him, we’re across the street from one another.”

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Castleman won't bend

Smith's cafe enforces wearing masks indoors, and she recounted speaking to Castleman in the past when the latter announced in April that customers who tossed their masks in the trash would be gifted 50 percent off on their orders. After the conversation didn't go anywhere, Smith hasn't indulged in speaking to Castleman since. SFGATE also asked Castleman if he thought it was fair to charge customers the fee, but the cafe owner remained rigid on his stand.

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Castleman plans on keeping the signs up for at least the next few months as he doesn't think Mendocino County will revoke its mask mandate any time soon. This comes in the wake of California Governor Gavin Newsom planning to reopen the state on June 15. Mendocino County is currently in the yellow tier of the state's color-coded system of reopening. More than 80,000 vaccines have been administered to residents of the county, reports California All. 

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