Charges dropped against former SLO officer who violated shut-down rules

June 16, 2021

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office has dropped its criminal case against a former San Luis Obispo police sergeant whom prosecutors accused of violating coronavirus health orders by operating his wine bar in Orcutt.

Kurt Hixenbaugh, who served on the San Luis Obispo force for more than a decade and as recently as 2018, co-owns and operates Vino et Amicis in Old Town Orcutt. During the recent statewide stay-at-home order issued by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Hixenbaugh refused to shut down Vino et Amicis.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), who is a practicing attorney, had been defending Hixenbaugh in court. Both Hixenbaugh and Cunningham have been outspoken critics of Newsom’s coronavirus orders.

In March, prosecutors charged Hixenbaugh with four misdemeanors. The charges consisted of two counts of failing to obey a stay-at-home order and two counts of failing to file a public health report.

On Tuesday, Hixenbaugh made a court appearance via Zoom. During the hearing, the prosecution said it would drop the charges against Hixenbaugh.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham

The district attorney’s office says it decided to drop the charges because Hixenbaugh’s business did not commit any new violations, and the coronavirus restrictions, upon which the case was based, were lifted on Tuesday.

Cunningham had argued, by keeping his business open, Hixenbaugh was protesting Newsom’s stay-at-home order, which the bar owner believed was illegal and unconstitutional. Hence, Hixenbaugh had First Amendment protection for continuing to operate his business, Cunningham stated.

Prosecutors filed the criminal complaint against Hixenbaugh after the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) conducted an investigation into the wine bar. ABC fined Vino et Amicis an undisclosed amount for COVD-19 rules violations, but decided not to revoke the business’s alcohol license.

Hixenbaugh was the first person to face criminal charges in Santa Barbara County for violating coronavirus orders. Santa Barbara County authorities had previously filed civil cases against gyms that refused to close down when ordered to do so.

If Hixenbaugh had been convicted of the misdemeanors, he would have faced up to six months in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine for each of the charges.

Beginning late last year, Hixenbaugh posted multiple videos on YouTube announcing his wine bar was defying Gov. Newsom’s shutdown order and encouraging other businesses to do the same.

Hixenbaugh took issue with Newsom including San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in the Southern California region. He also argued that businesses following coronavirus reopening protocols, like operating at partial capacity and requiring masks and social distancing, was enough and that there was not justification for shutting down bars and restaurants.

In a video posted on Feb. 10, Hixenbaugh announced he was changing the name of a beer served at Vino et Amicis from “F-Covid” to “Definance.”

“Come on down and have a glass of defiance. Freedom’s delicious,” Hixenbaugh said in the video.

Hixenbaugh went on to encourage other business owners to be smart and safe and follow pre-pandemic laws, but to defy Newsom’s shutdown order.

After prosecutors charged Hixenbaugh, a GoFundMe was launched as a legal defense fund for him. The GoFundMe raised more than $10,000.


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kurthixenbaugh

This is in reply to 805thirdeye:


First of all I will not hide behind some nifty little screen name like you. Gonna post garbage about some one? Then man up and own it.


The “new” Mrs. Please comment on the relevance of the length of our marriage….


Former SLOPD employees. Yes we are. Both retired. Again, please comment on the relevance…


$300k? Wow….That would be nice. Divide that number by 3 and you might be a little closer to the truth. Comment please on where you got the $300k number from and even if we did make $300, comment on the relevance of it…


Let’s talk about my son. Yes, he was a passenger in a vehicle crash that resulted in him breaking his neck and in the death of his girlfriend, also a passenger. To this day he still deals with significant pain and PTSD. It was a life altering experience for him. He is an amazing man that works his ass off for a living. He could have just taken unemployment for the rest of his life and got hooked on opioids but he has a work ethic and refuses handouts as long as he can do the job.


Please tell me where and when I said women make up rape allegations. Please post a link to that story…


And if I am in a “good ole boys club” as you suggest, then why did 2 Law Enforcement agencies (ABC and the DA’s Office) request criminal prosecution against me.


I’d love to debate you in person. You’ve got 90% of your information wrong. You know where to find me. Let’s chat.


805thirdeye

truth hurts, buddy. donate to the community! everything stated in posts, is public record. be a good community member.


805thirdeye

this guy, AKA horse_soldier


805thirdeye

Between Hixenbaugh & the new Mrs., both former San Luis Obispo Police dept. employees, a fine that he brought onto their business by blatantly ignoring the health of the community (wine bar is next to the Orcutt library) and they are pulling in about 300k between the two of them. What a joke & how dumb are those who donated up to 10k. Maybe Hixenbaugh et. al could donate that money to the local library. God knows places like the local library could use some funds after covid-19. Too bad the DA decided to flop on this, Hixenbaugh’s past alone should make him a 3rd striker in the community based on past offenses. Hixenbaugh also claimed that (women) make up rape in his time as a SLOPD employee.


Mr. Hixenbaugh, Jr. (bar owner son) was involved in a car crash where a young woman was trapped inside, dying (drugs and alcohol):


https://calcoastnews.com/2014/12/car-crashes-catches-fire-kills-santa-maria-woman/


These Hixenbaugh’s leave much to be desired as Santa Maria community members, but based on history, they’ll continue to escalate divisiveness. What a waste of Santa Barbara county resources thanks to these newlyweds.


Three days ago, another California bar was EVICTED for the exact same defiance. Guessing the owner was not part of the good ole boys club (of SLOPD ?) Does this mean Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham is in his club?


Cthulhu Colander

“Definance.” Best typo ever!


horse_soldier

Freedom is delicious indeed, drink up my friends!


slo-to-load

Indeed, although things aren’t as delicious after you’ve lost your sense of smell and taste due to COVID ;)