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Monte Rio restaurant draws complaint about coronavirus violations after skeletons confused for bar patrons

Two skeletons at Northwood Restaurant in Monte Rio recently caused some trouble after someone mistook them for real people and reported the restaurant to Sonoma County for COVID-19 violations.

The plastic skeletons first appeared at the restaurant as Halloween decorations in October before co-owner Chrissy Cronquist and her staff decided to keep them year-round, Cronquist said. But someone confused two of the skeletons stationed at the bar for real people. They reported the restaurant to Sonoma County, who sent a code enforcement investigator on March 4 to look into the complaint.

Cronquist said the man introduced himself as an investigator and explained they received a complaint that the restaurant was defying coronavirus restrictions and allowing patrons to sit at the bar. He added that they could face a $1,000 fine for the violation.

Cronquist thought he was joking.

“At first, I was kind of angry,” she said. “There’s nobody sitting at the bar. And then I looked over (at the skeletons) and said, ‘You meant these people?’ I went, ‘Oh my lord.’ And then I realized he’s talking about these skeletons.”

She joked with the investigator about receiving a $1,000 fine for dead people, but he remained professional and didn’t say much.

“I think he really wanted to bust up laughing,” she said.

This isn’t the first time the skeletons have been confused for people because they often are wearing clothes, hats or wigs, Cronquist said. Currently, one sitting at the bar is dressed as a reggae-inspired quarterback Brett Favre, and the other, which Cronquist’s grandson named Ruth, is wearing a hat and a white T-shirt.

After the investigator left without issuing a fine, restaurant employees taped signs that read “NOT an actual patron” to the back of the skeletons’ chairs. Bar manager Melissa Palu also placed a sign saying “NOT an actual bunny” next to a decorative Easter bunny.

A few days after the investigator visited, Northwood posted photos of the skeletons and signs to Facebook with a reminder that indoor dining is still closed.

“Our indoor scene has been populated by a very quiet group, they do not seem much for conversation, perhaps one day they too will be joined by real living breathing folks in a new chapter in normalcy in our current social distancing, mask wearing, awaiting vaccination world,” the post reads.

“ … We'll keep the light on and our sit in violators dusted off, awaiting the lifting of restrictions for indoor dining in the future.”

County spokesman Paul Gullixson confirmed that the county did receive a complaint about the restaurant, but no citation was issued.

“I understand that it was immediately apparent to our inspector that these were skeletons so no action was taken,” he said in a text message.

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