CA Restaurant Owner Takes Matters Into Own Hands After COVID Inspector Fines Him
In California, in-person restaurant dining is verboten. This doesn’t just mean indoor dining is banned, but now outdoor dining is nixed, too.
For restaurants that invested heavily in facilities to support outdoor dining, this is huge blow. Carlos Roman, for instance, told KCAL-TV that he’s spent thousands for an outdoor patio for his restaurant, Bread & Barley, in the Los Angeles County city of Covina.
Now, that’s basically useless. He can serve takeaway food, but that’s it.
And, he says, he now has to make sure customers eating his food aren’t sitting on public benches near his restaurant — which is why he’s had enough.
In a viral video taken Dec. 20, Roman used his truck to block a health inspector who had written him a citation for the two “diners” Roman says were on the public bench.
“We weren’t going out. We weren’t serving them,” Roman said.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.
The confrontation between Roman and the health inspector — as well as the police — centered around the fact he was “desperate” to pay his employees and keep his business open.
“When I go to the bank, do I tell the bank the Health Department said it’s OK?” Roman asked. “The Health Department said I don’t have to pay you? The Health Department said I can’t make a living?
“This is what happens when people get desperate,” he continued. “I’m desperate. Who’s going to pay her car payment? Who’s going to pay my cook’s rent?”
At this point, the Los Angeles County health inspectors didn’t have answers but were relying instead on the police.
“I understand you’re the owner for a business, but this is not the way to settle things,” a police officer said.
“What is?” Roman responded.
Roman isn’t some sort of COVID denier: “I think the pandemic is 100 percent real. My mom is recovering from covid right now,” he told KCAL.
However, this is a guy who built a patio, said he’s been complying with the county’s health orders, has been taking money out of his savings to keep his employees paid and the restaurant running — and he still has county officialdom coming down on him.
“I think we have entered into the realm of a lose-lose situation,” Roman said.
Once the video went online, Roman quickly gathered supporters. Conservative radio host and former Fox News personality Todd Starnes was one of them.
An article on Starnes‘ website pointed out that Roman “asked the police officer and the health department Nazi whether they got a paycheck on Friday. It’s a legitimate question.”
“The only person in that video not getting a paycheck is the law-abiding restaurant owner,” the article stated.
“The health department worker is still getting a paycheck. The police officers backing up the health department worker are still getting paychecks.
“But the restaurant owner’s cooks and servers are penniless. That’s not right.”
California has become a flashpoint for frustration over in-person dining rules, and not just because business owners aren’t getting paychecks or because restaurants invested in outdoor dining facilities only to have that rug yanked out from under them. High-profile hypocrisy also plays a role
On Nov. 6, California Gov. Gavin Newsom dined at the French Laundry, an expensive Napa Valley restaurant, for a birthday party. While private gatherings in the state were limited to three households that were all supposed to be socially distanced — and in an outdoor environment — Newsom’s group contained more than three households that clearly weren’t socially distanced, wearing masks or in an outdoor environment:
EXCLUSIVE: We’ve obtained photos of Governor Gavin Newsom at the Napa dinner party he’s in hot water over. The photos call into question just how outdoors the dinner was. A witness who took photos tells us his group was so loud, the sliding doors had to be closed. 10pm on @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/gtOVEwa864
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) November 18, 2020
On Nov. 7, one day later, San Francisco Mayor London Breed attended a birthday party at the French Laundry, as well. In Breed’s own city, while in-person dining was still legal, no more than six people could be seated at the same table. If you have to ask whether Breed was following this guideline at the French Laundry, you clearly don’t know the lack of self-awareness California politicians are possessed of.
They’re still getting paychecks, too.
As for Roman, a GoFundMe account had collected over $31,000 for the restaurant as of Tuesday morning. While Roman is grateful, he noted to KCAL that, at least when the account was at $12,000, the money would only pay for a week’s expenses.
So now it’s a couple of more weeks — but entrepreneurs don’t start businesses to last for a few weeks, and they don’t start them to rely on charity.
Meanwhile, Roman’s appealing the two fines he received from the Dec. 20 incident — $500 for failure to comply with COVID-19 regulations and another $500 for interfering with the health officer.
In the meantime, he’s getting plenty of support on Facebook and social media. If only he could get some support from the state.
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