In a video shared on Twitter by a reporter with The Daily Caller, Anton Van Happen, owner of Nick The Greek in Ventura, can be seen having a tense exchange with two inspectors from the county's health agency.
The inspectors reportedly visited his restaurant Friday night to issue him a closure order. Van Happen had left tables and chairs outside the restaurant to protest against the state's recent ban on outdoor dining. But he said he served food to-go and that if customers used the tables or chairs out front, it was their prerogative.
"I never served one single person outside," Van Happen said in the video, which has now been viewed over 2.7 million times. Nonetheless, Van Happen brought his chairs and tables inside but kept his restaurant open.
Health inspectors visited the restaurant again the following Monday and issued him a citation for staying open despite the closure order. Van Happen insisted he did not break any rules but the inspectors said otherwise.
The inspectors also warned Van Happen that he could have his public health permit revoked if he continued to operate. But later in the video, a health inspector could be heard saying that a "permit has been suspended."
Van Happen maintained that he was following the rules and that the situation feels more like a power trip. For one, next door to Nick The Greek is a clothing store with clothes racks lined outside for people to look through.
Van Happen said it did not make sense that health officials think the coronavirus can spread among those who
are eating outdoors at his restaurant but not among people outside shopping for clothes right next door.
He added that it is "extremely unfair" that restaurants are banned from serving customers indoors or outdoors under the state's stay-at-home order while other businesses continue to operate. (Related: California restaurants to remain open despite lockdown orders as owners try to survive government tyranny.)
Moreover, he pointed out that small business owners are struggling because authorities are closing them down without giving out loans, stimulus checks and relief packages, as was the case early in the pandemic.
Meanwhile, customers of Nick The Greek and social media users who saw the video were quick to lend support. On Tuesday, there was a long line outside the restaurant as Van Happen continued to protest the closure order. "It was nice showing up here, walking up and seeing a big line," said Elena Zicker, a customer of the restaurant.
On Twitter, users slammed the closure order. One user even pointed out that big businesses like Kroger, Home Depot and Walmart can operate without trouble despite serving hundreds of customers every day. "But a small restaurant can't operate?" the user quipped.
Van Happen is just one of several restaurant owners in California protesting against the ban on outdoor dining. Angela Marsden, owner of Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill in Los Angeles County, posted a video on social media when she saw production tables set up a few feet from her restaurant's outdoor dining area.
In the video, Marsden tearfully called out what she said was the hypocrisy of authorities for allowing television crews to eat outdoors not far from her restaurant, which she was forced to close down. "Right here is dangerous. But just walk over there and eat," Marsden said in the video. "We cannot survive. My staff cannot survive."
Read the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic at Pandemic.news.