VENTURA, Calif.-- A downtown Ventura restaurant is getting national attention. On Tuesday. Ivanka Trump tweeted about ‘Nick The Greek’.
Outdoor dining is banned under the regional stay-at-home order, but restaurant owners are pushing back.
Last week we introduced you to Anton Van Happen, who owns Nick The Greek in Downtown Ventura. He started a movement aimed at protesting restaurant restrictions.
“I spoke to the Health Department before I did that and he gave me his word that was fine because you are allowed to protest,” said Van Happen. “I continued to serve all my food to go, and it was everyone's own prerogative to go sit on the tables.”
The community showed up, but later Friday night-- the Health Department showed up too. They said the chairs and tables on Van Happen's terrace were against health orders. The health department issued a notice to Van Happen ordering his restaurant to close, but he said that wasn't an option.
“I can’t shut down this weekend because I have rent to pay and have to pay my employees,” said Van Happen. “It is just not possible. I only did takeout and delivery."
Van Happen says the Health Department reached out again on Monday, and told him to write an email stating he would comply and then the department would drop the closure notice.
"I got an email back from him saying since we found out you were open on Saturday, Sunday, Monday I am taking my word back and you are going to have to remain closed,” said Van Happen.
Later that day, another visit from the Health Department. This time it got heated, and a video went viral. A video clip posted by Jorge Ventura was retweeted by Ivanka Trump, who voiced support for Van Happen.
“I don’t do this to get political,” said Van Happen. “I am a restaurant owner and I want to stay neutral. I am purely here for restaurants, and restaurant owners like me."
It all comes as health experts urge people to listen to health orders. Ventura County saw record case numbers over the weekend, and hospitals are reaching capacity. Van Happen says closing restaurants isn't the solution.
"There is no scientific proof that outdoor dining is spreading COVID,” said Van Happen.
So Van Happen is still open, but only for takeout and delivery, and there's a lot of support.
“I applaud him for stepping up and standing up to try to make this work for all the other restaurants,” said Susan Cruz, who is a Santa Clarita resident.
“It has been overwhelming,” said Van Happen. “We have people calling in from all kinds of States across the US. Literally people calling us to say they support us and thank you for standing up.”
In response the Ventura County Public Health said “we hope all businesses follow the State order to save lives and move us all forward."