VENTURA, Calif. - Some restaurants in downtown Ventura have decided to protest against the outdoor dining ban..
Most of Downtown Ventura is empty following the new regional Stay-At-Home order. Restaurants were ordered to switch to takeout and delivery only, but some owners are pushing back.
“I am trying to start something where all restaurant owners are going to wake up,” said Anton Van Happen, who is the owner of Nick The Greek in Downtown Ventura.
On Thursday Van Happen put up signs advertising a protest.
“My calling is to all the other restaurant owners to open your restaurants,” said Van Happen. “If we all open up they can't do anything.”
His outdoor patio was packed Thursday night.
“The support has been unbelievable,” said Van Happen.
It comes as health experts urge people to stay home, and slow the spread of covid with cases and hospitalizations spiking across California and Ventura County. But the owner of Casa Bella restaurant-- which reopened Wednesday-- disagrees with the ban on outdoor dining.
“We have complied and we did shut down,” said Jan Holguin, who owns Casa Bella in Downtown Ventura. “We have been following the California Restaurant Association and the case came down in LA that the judge decided that outdoor dining was safe, and the science was not there and that was a decision for us to decide to reopen on Wednesday night.”
That night Casa Bella's outdoor patio was so full, customers were turned away. The owner says she notified the Public Health Department about her plans to reopen, and was told she would receive a warning.
“But at 10:30 that night the health department came in and after they said they would not fine us,” said Holguin. “They came in and gave us a temporary suspension of our license.”
Restaurant owners say they've followed all health orders, and feel they're being unfairly punished.
“I am friends with every restaurant owner in downtown and they all came on Wednesday night,” said Holguin. “Everyone wants to open, safely, following the protocols, and doing it correctly. If we don’t we might have thousands of people in our city that will not have a Christmas this year.”
Many restaurants owners say they want to stay open not only to keep businesses running, but to help save jobs.