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Are you gonna pay my rent? Ventura Ca restaurant owner defies COVID closure

Anton Van Happen Ventura
Pictured, Anton Van Happen Ventura California owner of Nick the Greek. Image via social media.
Anton Van Happen Ventura
Pictured, Anton Van Happen Ventura California owner of Nick the Greek. Image via social media.

Anton Van Happen Ventura California owner of Nick the Greek defies health workers issuing citation for remaining open amid pandemic. The dilemma of public health vs free trade and economic livelihood. 

The California restaurant owner of the ‘Nick the Greek’ in Ventura has caused disconcert after viral video captured the entrepreneur arguing with visiting health officials over COVID-19 restrictions — which mandated him closing down the diner amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Anton Van Happen was being interviewed by a local news outlet over his refusal to close down amid new state orders stipulating restaurant owners only be allowed to remain open for take out orders when a couple of health department workers visited Monday afternoon.

It’s at this moment an ensuing confrontation between Van Happen and the health workers was caught live on tape as officials sought to issue the restauranteur a citation.

‘Are you gonna pay my rent?’ Van Happen is heard telling the officials

A health department worker accuses the restaurant owner of ‘not following the rules’ — stemming from Van Happen’s protest last week inviting patrons to sit at tables outside the restaurant after receiving their takeout orders.

‘I followed the rules! I continue to follow the rules!’

‘I followed the rules! I continue 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?’ Van Happen responds.

The health worker stands fast, telling Van Happen ‘there is a law that you’re breaking right now by operating without a permit.’

‘Because you guys put this closure on my restaurant!’ Van Happen retorts. ‘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.’

‘I chose to protest by putting my tables outside,’ Van Halen says, adding, ‘I never served one single person outside. I did all takeout food and delivery, exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I did not break any rule.’

‘Why aren’t you guys at Costco right now?

The other worker tells Van Happen that his restaurant ‘is already closed. The permit has been suspended.’

A customer standing just outside the restaurant’s doorway listening to the ensuing drama is then heard demanding that the health workers leave. 

‘Why aren’t you guys at Costco right now? There’s 500 people inside Costco!’ the customer screams. ‘There are 100 people inside Walmart! What are you doing? Just get out! No one wants you here! Go away! Nobody wants you here!’ 

Anton Van Happen ventura
Social media responds to Anton Van Happen Ventura restaurant owner confrontation with health officials.

Moral dilemma

Monday’s fracas comes as more than 500 new coronavirus cases are being recorded in Ventura County each day, by far the fastest rate of infection the county has seen this year.

In an earlier interview with Ventura Report, Van Happen said, ‘They shut down outdoor dining because the ICUs were getting busier and more people were going to the hospitals. Ever since outdoor dining has closed has that slowed down? No. There’s still a ton of people get COVID and there’s still a ton of people in the hospitals. Why? Because retail stores are still open, everything is still open. … It’s unfair to us restaurant owners. We’re getting dinged for whatever reason.’

Of note, Van Happen opened the Ventura Nick the Greek franchise in May despite the pandemic. The California-based restaurant chain was founded in 2014 by three cousins named Nick and has 12 locations around the state, according to the Ventura County Star. The company’s founders could not be reached for comment about Van Happen.

And then there were these reactions on social media that caught this author’s attention, see what you think?

Commented one Twitter user: ‘I feel this man’s pain. But I also trust science. There are rules ‘at this time.’ I can’t imagine owning a business right now. If the damn gov’t was doing its job and supplementing these businesses things could be different. Shame on our government. Shame on trumps government.’

Posted another, ‘Maybe McConnell will move before every small business dies. He is holding out to protect corps from suits when they do nothing to protect their workers. His personal income didn’t move from $2 to $23 million a year because of small business owners. Reelected w/20% approval. How?’

While another Twitter user added, ‘He shouldn’t open but he shouldn’t pay rent either. Banks shouldn’t charge interest on loans. And the govt should cover maintenance and payroll costs of landlords and the restaurant. Time for banks to suck it up.’

While Ivanka Trump tweeted, ‘These blanket lockdowns are not grounded in science. These arbitrary rules imposed by callous politicians are destroying lives. It is just wrong for small business owners to have fight so hard to keep their American dream alive.’

And then there was this comment too… ‘Then they came for the restaurant owners and entrepreneurs, but i said nothing because i don’t own a restaurant or my own business.’