Back in March, Steve Jackson, who owns the Country Family Restaurant in Kirtland, New Mexico, put a sign on his restaurant that read: “CLOSED you can thank CHINA!”
The sign, clearly meant to signal that the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down businesses across the United States, came from China. The sign was shared on social media, leading to a backlash against Jackson and his restaurant for alleged bigotry. Jackson was accused of being a bigot, and a few members of the Navajo Nation tried to start a boycott of his restaurant.
Jackson told the Farmington Daily Times in March that the sign was misinterpreted.
“I stuck up that little-bitty sign that explained my thoughts about the communist Chinese government and the way they treat their people,” Jackson told the outlet.
He then put up a different sign that read: “CLOSED you can thank the CHINESE GOVERNMENT (Look it up),” but that didn’t stop the backlash.
Peter Deswood, the principal of a school in Farmington, claimed Jackson’s sign amounted to “microaggressions that happen to minority people.”
“I’ve seen that kind of behavior in this area. And if a significant amount of your customers are minority people, you can’t talk like that,” Deswood added.
Jackson, however, stood by his sign.
“We have no reason to apologize for anything,” he said. “If you’re a communist sympathizer, I can’t help you. But none of these people (who have complained about the sign) ever contacted me and asked me what I think.”
Four months later, and Jackson’s restaurant has had its food service permit suspended, Fox News reported, for allegedly violating coronavirus restrictions. The Associated Press reported that the New Mexico Environment Department suspended the permit for violating statewide health orders that prohibit indoor dining and require restaurant workers to wear masks.
Jackson told the Farmington Daily Times that he didn’t intend to defy the state health orders, but felt he had to in order to continue operating his business and employing his workers. The outlet further reported that Jackson kept offering indoor dining even though Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) ordered restaurants to stop doing so.
Jackson told the outlet he had done everything he could to keep his business open while keeping customers and staff safe, adding that the state had not shown him any proof that indoor dining increases the spread of the coronavirus.
More from the Daily Times:
State environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a July 14 statement that 15% of all “rapid responses” for COVID-19 from the previous week came from an employee testing positive at a restaurant.
As owner of the restaurant, Jackson said the livelihood of his family was impacted by closing indoor dining as their income came from the business.
The business did receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan, but the money went to items including paychecks and utility payments, Jackson said.
There was no money left for the business owner to pay for their groceries and make house payments, according to Jackson.
As the Daily Times reported, nine restaurants in New Mexico have had their “food service permits suspended since July 14, a day after public health restrictions were re-implemented which prohibited indoor dining in restaurants.” Of those nine restaurants, four have been in San Juan County, including Jackson’s restaurant.