MARIN, Calif. - Authorities are investigating arson threats against two Marin County businesses, targeted because of their COVID vaccination requirements.
Both a bar and a fitness club appear to have been singled out by the same person.
"The note said 'If your vaccine passport is not removed by this time next week, this place will burn'", said Jared Litwin, manager of the Papermill Creek Saloon in unincorporated Forest Knolls in west Marin.
About 10 people were in the bar last Friday night when someone hand-delivered the threat, demanding vaccination requirements be eased.
"The door opens up, and a guy in a ski mask wearing all black, throws a note on the floor and runs off," Litwin said. "And as soon as I read it, we all ran out to look for him but it's dark, there are no street lights out here."
The Papermill Creeek Saloon requires proof of vaccination for entry.
It has received some push-back, but nothing this dramatic.
"I have gotten threatening phone calls and a couple of people who wanted to fight outside, but this is the first direct threat of bodily harm," said Litwin.
And the bar note was almost identical, in handwriting and phrasing, to a second one left the following night at a San Rafael gym 20 minutes away.
"I was shocked because I figured most Marin County people are vaccination-friendly like the people in our gym," Erick Macias, manager of Body Kinetics on Second Street in San Rafael.
Body Kinetics also has locations in Novato and Mill Valley, and boasts a vaccination rate of 94 percent among its gym members.
Those who show proof of COVID immunization are able to work-out without wearing a mask.
Members who are unvaccinated can exercise in the facilities, but must wear a mask at all times.
"They do an excellent job with their protocols, and enforce it really well," said a member who gave his name as Alex. "So I'm really surprised to hear someone would leave a note like that."
This time, employees arriving on Sunday morning found the threat taped to the front door:
It read, 'If the vaccine mandate isn't lifted within one week, this place burns.'
Surveillance video shows the note was attached between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Saturday night.
In the days since, the gym has installed an improved surveillance system for more clarity.
"We want our members to be safe and we want them to know they're safe in our clubs," said Macias. "This is a threat and an act of violence, but a mandate is a mandate and you need to respect it and follow the rules."
San Rafael Police and Marin County Sheriff's detectives are comparing notes as they work the investigation.
"We have to take these seriously until we can determine what the motivation is," said Sgt. Justin Graham of the San Rafael, whose officers responded to Body Kinetics
"Businesses have been struggling with COVID and we want to make sure our businesses are safe."
Graham says the suspect could face charges related to criminal threats, depending on if he has the means and ability to actually carry out the arsons.
"Based on the note having a time frame, we don't know what this individual is capable of," said Graham. "Since we don't know it they have the means or not, that's why we're taking it seriously and investigating it."
The brazen threat, with a one-week deadline, is the talk of the Papermill Creek Saloon.
"It's insulting to all of us and we won't stand for it," said regular patron Cheyenne Levi of Woodacre. "Our little local bar is our love bar, we don't have anybody that has hate here, so that feels like we've been targeted for hate."
The bar is offering a $1000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction for the arson threat.