After a small restaurant owner in Ventura, California, west of Los Angeles, was allegedly issued a citation for staying open after being given a closure order, the owner confronted public health inspectors with an angry, impassioned defense, asserting, “I followed the rules! I continued to follow the rules and you guys still, time after time, are giving me citations … Are you gonna pay my rent?”
Last week, Anton Van Happen, the owner of Nick The Greek in downtown Ventura, put up signs advertising a protest, saying, “My calling is to all the other restaurant owners to open your restaurants. If we all open up they can’t do anything.”
In the video, the female inspector starts by saying to Van Happen, “I understand that you’re —”
Then this exchange follows:
Van Happen: I followed the rules! I continued to follow the rules and you guys still, time after time, are giving me citations, telling me I have to close my business! What about my employees?
Female inspector: You’re not following the rules.
Van Happen: I’m not following the rules? My tables are inside. Just because the Health Department has a whole process to go through that takes however long that takes, I have to close my business for that time? Who’s gonna — Are you gonna pay my rent? Are you gonna pay my rent?
Female inspector: You chose to make those decisions.
Van Happen: I chose to protest by putting my tables outside and I reiterated that. I never sold one single person outside. I did all take-out food and delivery so what exactly I was supposed to be doing. That’s exactly what I did. I did not break any — and it was not even a law— I did not break any rule.
Female inspector: There is a law that you’re breaking right now by operating without a permit.
Van Happen: Because you guys put this closure on my restaurant. So you guys yourselves are creating your own rule. And you’re giving out citations for your own rule that’s created. It’s not by law that you cannot sit outside and eat; that’s not law, that’s a form that I was given. So you can have people that pulled your citation based on that.
Male inspector: It’s already been ordered. I’m not issuing a closure.
Van Happen: You guys closed me! You guys actually closed me!
Male inspector: I’m not issuing a citation for closure. The restaurant is already closed. The permit has been suspended. However, your refusal to close warrants a description.
Van Happen: Because what am I going to do if I close? Are you going to pay my rent?
Male inspector: No. No. All we need to do —
Van Happen: Okay. So if you’re not going to pay my rent, I’m not closing.
Male inspector: We need to reopen.
Van Happen: If you’re not going to pay my — I told you already.
Male inspector: We could have reopened today. You could be open right now …
After Van Happen protests, the male inspector continues, “We missed those steps. The steps that you need to take to make sure that you can open your business. You could have — You could have reopened already.”
Van Happen: How? How?
Male inspector: The steps are listed in the report that was given —
Van Happen: Which I did. I called the guy. The guy I spoke to on the phone, the supervisor, because he made a mistake, now it’s on me? He made a mistake. I recorded on my phone what he said.
Female inspector: He didn’t make a mistake.
Van Happen: Yes, he did. He told me if I put it in writing to him on an email that I will follow the rules, that I will not put my tables for outside dining …
"Are you going to pay my rent ? says owner Anton Van Happen of 'Nick The Greek' to public health inspectors issuing him a citation for staying open after being issued a closure order. Things got tense pic.twitter.com/9eKCiAjDaw
— Jorge Ventura Media (@VenturaReport) December 15, 2020
Social media users responded passionately:
We did not fight a revolution for this. This is not America. https://t.co/qyhVh9FWul
— Bethany S. Mandel (@bethanyshondark) December 15, 2020
It’s heart wrenching to watch business owners plead with government officials for their right to run a business. The American small business has been decimated. We should be showing these owners compassion and hope instead of incentivizing yet another restaurant to close down. https://t.co/qk07XAdk6O
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) December 15, 2020
Government functionaries don't worry about paying rent. You're paying their rent. https://t.co/TjY56VAHJh
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) December 15, 2020
— ELIJAH SCHAFFER (@ElijahSchaffer) December 15, 2020
Remember before? When we were all responsible for ourselves? https://t.co/O8WLGicZcG
— Daniel Knauf (@Daniel_Knauf) December 15, 2020