East Bay restaurant complies with outdoor dining ban after defying order to help employees

DANVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- Incontro Ristorante in downtown Danville has finally closed for outdoor dining. The owners defied the COVID-19 outdoor dining ban for weeks, racking up thousands of dollars in fines in the process.

Last Friday, after weeks of warnings by health officials and police, the county finally shut them down.

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"(It) wasted a lot of our time, the Town of Danville's police department's time. It was causing a lot upset amongst the neighboring restaurants that were complying. There is certainly an issue of fairness there," says Joe Doser, a Contra Costa County Health Inspector.

Doser says on Monday, the owner, Gabe Moufarrej, appealed to the county to be re-opened.

"(It) included a statement that he was going to comply with the health office order, including not allowing onsite dining," says Doser.

Tuesday afternoon, ABC7 News was there as a county health inspector gave the restaurant the green light to reopen, but only for take-out and delivery.

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The restaurant owners refused to be interviewed, but off-camera told ABC7 News that take-out alone won't be enough to pay bills or their employees.

"I'd call that some kind of civil disobedience, I suppose," says Vijay Swamidass. He and his daughter ordered take-out from Incontro.

He says he understands both sides of the argument, and sympathizes with how difficult things are right now for small businesses.

"(Danville) is all full of restaurants. They got to all be suffering, and the people working (there). I feel bad," says Swamidass. "This thing has been going for nine months, too. It's not like it's only been a week. I don't know how these people are surviving."

VIDEO: CA restaurant owner claims to find 'loophole' to remain open
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Denis Xenos, the owner of Denis' Country Kitchen in Lodi, California, claims to have found a loophole to legally keep his small business open against the state's stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic.

But folks like Ron Ford, point to the Crossfit ATI gym that is open just across the street. He asks, if people can exercise outdoors, why can't they eat outdoors at restaurants, with COVID-19 guidelines in place?

"We are living in some rough times right now, financially. And hey, there are bills to be paid. That's how I feel. If it was me, I'd be open," says Ford.

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