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Oakland Event Space Still Open, Despite City Fines

Pernillan, Wikpedia Commons
Yes We're Open

The Humanist Hall in Oakland has been hosting indoor, in-person events since July, despite COVID-related restrictions. These include weddings, birthday parties, and wakes. Many have exceeded 100 people. 

Oakland has fined the Hall almost $14,000. But the space’s manager, David Oertel, has refused to pay the fines. He told the SF Chronicle that people wanted a place to gather and called the virus a “bad flu.” There have been over 20,000 COVID-19 cases in Alameda County and over 400 deaths.

The city hasn’t done much about the hall’s non compliance, frustrating council members and neighbors. Police haven’t intervened yet, and the City Attorney’s office still hasn’t decided what legal action to take. 

Oertel has expressed opinions on the virus that health officials have called dangerous, like discouraging mask-wearing and calling the pandemic a scam.

While the space is marketed as a safe space towards Black and brown people, Black and Latinx people currently have the highest rates of infection and death from the coronavirus, nationwide.

Alameda County is still in the Orange restrictive tier. But the Humanist Hall has 18 events planned next month.

David Exumé (he/him/his) is a 2020-2021 Audio Academy Fellow. His reporting interests include music history, immigration, community organizing, and urban planning. He's previously worked at KCRW in Santa Monica and WPRB in Princeton.