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Piecemakers probation ends

December 14, 2000

Jennifer Kho

MESA VERDE -- Probation ended this week for the Piecemakers Country

Store, but the store's battle with the Orange County Health Care Agency

is still unresolved.

The Piecemakers Country Store, at 1720 Adams Ave., was on probation

for three years for past health code violations and was subject to

regular, unannounced inspections as part of the probation terms.

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The probation, originally scheduled to expire in January, was extended

to this month because of a probation violation last year.

On Monday, the store's probation ended despite store management's

refusal to allow an inspection at a craft fair Saturday.

Pat Markley, a health department spokeswoman, said the Piecemakers

refused to allow unimpeded regular health inspections throughout the

probation period.

The Piecemakers, who have been fighting court battles with the health

department since 1992, responded that the health department has a history

of harassment.

The group also is suing two health department officers who conducted

an inspection at an October craft fair, claiming the duo harassed the

vendors and violated the Piecemakers' civil rights.

The Piecemakers view the end of their probation as a victory but said

they still have a long way to go.

"We're off of probation, and we feel free as a bird," said Marie

Kolasinski, owner of the store. "It was something that was always hanging

over our heads, and now we can get on with our lives. [The health

department] has been harassing restaurants all over Orange County with

the tyranny of the law. It's time to go back to the Constitution.

Restaurants have the right to run their businesses the way they feel fit,

and the judgment on [a restaurant's cleanliness] will rest on the

clientele that eats there. Hopefully, making a stand will bring common

sense to our laws."

Elisa Plummer, a deputy district attorney, stressed the Piecemakers

will still have to comply with the law and allow regular food

inspections.

"Everybody has to comply with law, whether they're on probation of

not," Plummer said. "The Health Care Agency is just trying to do its job

and inspect. It had problems trying to get the Piecemakers to comply and

to be cooperative. Its job is to make sure the law is complied with to

protect public health and safety."

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