A social media firestorm has been ignited over social distancing and face coverings at Dringk Eatery and Bar at The River in Rancho Mirage.
The owner, speaking exclusively to News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia, said he is closing his business's doors until further notice after reportedly receiving violent threats.
"The violent and absolutely insane death threats against myself, my family, my children, I found just unacceptable," said Kurt Gardner, owner of Dringk. "I understand there's a real political divide right now and I'm not going to put my family in the middle of it. My business is very important to me, but my family comes first and I just felt it was not safe."
Dringk's drastic move comes two weeks after the bar was cleared for reopening. After the first night back, photos began circulating online showing a crowded dance floor and many customers without masks, drawing swift backlash on social media.
"The first Friday night, the guests that were in the building got up and started doing some dancing and having some fun," Gardner said, adding that the photo was shot before the statewide mask order had kicked in.
But a May 12 Rancho Mirage order was in effect at the time, requiring customers to wear face coverings in restaurants.
Gardner said the city never notified him of that order.
Dringk had rearranged its floor plan to reduce congregating areas. Gardner said his team was careful to limit capacity too.
"We'd been very, very strict with our security team – we had not exceeded the 50 percent capacity at any time," he said.
Through the pandemic, Dringk has provided curbside meal pickup – a service Gardner said many have been thankful for.
"We've provided a lot of food for families and taken care of a lot of people. People appreciate that and they're standing behind me," he said. "There's a lot of hate out in the world and that's not what Dringk is about. I am more than happy to close for a period of time until this hate and this divide subsides and people can come together and enjoy what Dringk can offer them."
News Channel 3 reviewed security footage from last weekend which showed stricter social distancing enforcement and a less crowded bar.
Dringk remains open for curbside pickup and takeout.