Crazy Otto’s Diner in Valencia was closed Sunday after the restaurant had opened for dine-in services despite stay-at-home orders.
On Friday, a “Now Open” sign could be seen hanging from the front of the restaurant, as people dined inside.
By Sunday, the sign was gone, replaced by a closure notice posted on the restaurant’s door by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The notice cited several California Health and Safety code violations, along with a violation of the county’s “Safer at Home” order, which requires businesses to stop in-person operations.
Though not affiliated with the Valencia location other than by name, Adam Finley, the operating owner of Crazy Otto’s Diner in Canyon Country, confirmed the Valencia owners met with the Health Department Monday, only able to speculate that the closure was due to the restaurant offering dine-in services.
“I can only speak for this location, I can’t speak for their location,” Finley said.
Even so, Finley says he was aware that the Valencia location had been operating for about a week.
“I was seeing (posts) on the internet,” Finley said. “I got a lot of phone calls over here asking if we were open, and we said, ‘No.’”
On Saturday, Finley says he, too, decided to partially open, allowing limited seating outside for customers, spacing tables out and using to-go materials only, while still following the public health guidelines.
However, after receiving phone calls alerting him that he would also be shut down if he continued, he returned to only offering take-out and pickup Sunday, like he had been for the previous two months.
“This is difficult for us,” Finley said, referring to the closures. “We’re about 85% down in sales, so we can’t sustain this too much longer … The grocery stores are open. We’re essential, they’re essential. What’s the difference?”
For Finley, it’s not just about being a struggling business owner, it’s about losing everything he’s worked for.
“I started as a washer, and I worked very hard to get where I’m at,” he said. “And to lose it, especially for me, I have a family of four and one on the way, so I’m going to have five kids, and so I can’t afford to lose this. That’s why I made a decision on Saturday to try to put some tables out to try to boost sales, but then I had to go back on that because I can’t afford to lose my business.”
Finley says he hopes Public Health eases restrictions soon, allowing dine-in with certain guidelines.
“You give us 25% (capacity), that would help us a lot,” he added. “Even if it’s just 10 people in the restaurant, we’ll still keep the distance and follow health guidelines.”
Finley says he doesn’t want to put people’s health at risk and will continue to abide by Public Health’s guidelines. “We have masks on, we’re washing our hands, sanitizing and wiping everything down.”
Finley says it’s not really about the money, it’s more so about freedom.
“We’re trying to figure things out, and maybe I made a wrong decision on Saturday, but I just wish other restaurants would also step in there, even if it’s for one day, to say, ‘We’re tired of it,’” he said. “It’s a very scary time for everyone. Everybody’s panicking, everybody is living in fear, but I feel that, at some point, we have to find a way to get out of this.”