The owner of Restauration in Bluff Heights, who has willfully violated city health orders banning dine-in service, hosted a small gathering of fellow restaurateurs Monday and urged them to join her in defiance of rules meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Dana Tanner, who owns the restaurant, briefly allowed members of the media to attend the gathering, but then asked reporters to leave out of concern for protecting the identities of those in attendance.
Tanner has been operating outdoor dining for weeks, stating that she’s doing so to keep her business afloat and allow her employees to pay their bills.
Now, however, she’s facing the possibility of escalating penalties including the threat of misdemeanor charges “for continued flagrant violations” of coronavirus-related rules, the city of Long Beach said in a statement.
“Their health permit to operate as a restaurant has been suspended, which means that they cannot operate, including for take-out or delivery,” the statement said. “Restauration is one citation away from the City pursuing their water being shut off.”
Tanner’s first citation came on New Year’s Eve after the city received several complaints about a planned party.
She said city health officials then placed a notice of closure sign on her front door Friday, but she’s unconcerned that Monday’s meeting, nor her decision to operate, could lead to a permanent closure.
“I’d be closing either way,” Tanner said. “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”
On Sunday Tanner sent out an email stating that she had called the meeting after several other business owners contacted her about her choice to stay open.
She also alleged in the email that city officials have encouraged her to hold the meeting and that there is dissent among city employees when it comes to whether they think the shutdown of businesses is right.
“It is unacceptable for a business to repeatedly flaunt their violations of the Health Order and continue to operate in violation of it when conditions due to COVID- 19 are so grave,” the city said in its statement.
City spokesman Kevin Lee said that the city expects every business to follow the health order and that he has not heard of any dissension in the ranks of city employees when it comes to enforcing the order.
“These are really hard times for so many people, and the City has put in place several programs to ease the burden, and we will continue to do everything we can to support small businesses and our residents,” Lee said in a text Monday night. “However, everyone needs to follow the Health Order in order to put an end to this deadly pandemic sooner than later.”
Tanner said she’s asked for an administrative hearing with the city because she believes it has failed to follow its own administrative penalty process.
She said she’s only been issued two citations when she was told at least three were required before the city ramped up the punishment. The notice of closure placed on her door came with no discussion or paperwork, Tanner said.
There has been other resistance to the public health orders restricting restaurants to to-go service only in the past.
Numerous cafes have left patio furniture out with no explicit direction for customers not to use it.
In July, restaurant owners joined to form the Long Beach Restaurant Association to advocate politically for the industry and last month business owners took to the streets of Belmont Shore to voice their displeasure with the new orders.
Tanner, though, has been the public face when it comes to openly defying the orders by staying open and providing dine-in as an option at Restauration.
“I just knew I had to do what was right for me and my family, so I did,” she said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more information from the city of Long Beach and a statement from city spokesman Kevin Lee.