"We are over it." Pine Valley restaurant plans to defy county order

Owner says can't survive with outdoors only in winter
Posted at 5:18 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 21:13:28-05

PINE VALLEY, Calif. (KGTV) — A Pine Valley restaurant owner says he will defy the county's order that shuts down indoor dining beginning Saturday.

"We are over it," said Larry McNamer, who owns Major's Diner in Pine Valley. "We can't do any more going backward. We can't. Not and stay open and be a viable part of the community."

McNamer says 2020 has been a very challenging year, with sales down and its staff cut in half. Now, the increase in the coronavirus case rate is pushing San Diego County into the state's purple tier of restrictions, it's most strict. That means come Saturday, restaurants will no longer be allowed to serve indoors at 25% capacity, instead, they'll be limited to outdoor-only dining as the weather turns cold.

McNamer said he takes the virus very seriously and has put social distancing measures in place. However, he says moving to outdoor dining only will make it impossible to survive, with temperatures in the 30s in the mornings. The diner is only open for breakfast and lunch.

"And at this point, if they want me to, I'll be more than happy to put the keys on the counter and leave them an invoice for the business and they can write me a check for it," he said.

In a statement, the California Department of Public Health said it understands the frustrations, but that the spread of coronavirus remains a major concern.

"California’s cases of COVID-19 are ticking upward, and the state is urging Californians to continue to do everything they can to protect themselves and the community from increased transmission of the virus," the statement said. "We know that this is hard, as many of us feel exhausted, isolated or impatient."

The county restaurant industry has been hit especially hard amid the pandemic, with jobs down about 17% over the year, or 22,000 positions.

"All hopes have to be on this vaccine being distributed quickly and working, and allowing us to move through the tiers," said Ray Major, chief economist at SANDAG.

McNamer, who owns the diner with his wife Debi, said if the county levies fines on them, so be it.

"Wonderful, where are you going to get it?" he said. "You can fine me $100,000 a day and it's not going to do you any good because you're not going to get the money."