A San Clemente restaurant reopened over the weekend, in defiance of California’s stay-at-home order.
Nomads Canteen, located at 102 Avenida Cabrillo, was crowded with at least two dozen people who could be seen socializing, eating and drinking in the outside patio area Sunday afternoon, two days after the restaurant reopened its doors to dine-in services.
Owner Jeff Gourley told KTLA he took social distancing measures into account by reducing indoor capacity by about 40%, after removing several tables and placing bar stools several feet apart.
But out on the patio deck, patrons did not appear to be adhering to the state’s social distancing guidelines and were not wearing masks, video showed.
Orange County health inspectors visited the canteen after receiving multiple complaints, Gourley said. He was told that his operating license could be revoked if he continues to offer dine-in services.
He said he understands that he is taking a huge risk but his business won’t survive, financially, if he keeps it closed.
The canteen also received a visit from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sunday, and the owner said he was not ticketed but rather given a warning.
“I’m in a hurry. If Gavin wants to come pay my mortgage, perfect, come by my building,” Gourley said. “We’re all in a hurry. We need to get back to work.”
The owner said he offered voluntary coronavirus antibody tests to his employees to allow them to return to work. He was able to get a hold of the serology tests — which are not widely available to the public — from a connection of his, he told the San Clemente Times. Only about half of his staff agreed to return.
“People are saying I have blood on my hands and that their grandma is going to die,” he said to the Orange County Register in response to criticism he’s received for reopening. “But I’m not forcing anyone to come here. If you don’t feel the way we do, just stay home.”
Many of the customers at the restaurant said they were out protesting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order in previous days. Orange County has been a hotspot for protests against the stay-at-home orders, after the governor mandated countywide closure of beaches following crowded shores amid a heatwave the previous weekend.
Meanwhile, the cities of Huntington Beach, Dana Point and Newport Beach are seeking legal action against the state, in an effort to get beaches opened up again.
Gourley said he will be closed Monday because he has already run out of supplies, and he will determine what steps to take next.