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San Diego restaurants defy latest court ruling, stay open to survive

restaurant open sign
Posted at 8:42 PM, Dec 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-20 00:10:05-05

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - Escondido restaurant owners made the decision to stay open for indoor and outdoor dining after a court ruled Friday evening they must be take out only.

On Grand Avenue, it looked like a time warp. People were back under tents and umbrellas eating and drinking on the patio and some indoors.

At Tony Pepperoni Pizzeria, the sign in the window blinked "Open."

"The restaurant business isn't something you can say hey close, open, close," Tony Pepperony Pizzeria Owner Joe Locricchio said.

That's exactly what he's been dealing with for the last 10 months.

"We have livelihoods on the line... I have single mothers okay, they need to buy diapers. I have guys that haven't had a job and they're walking out of here with money every night in tips." Locricchio said his 80+ employees are like family.

Staying open hasn't come without challenges.

He said he was criminally cited by Alcoholic Beverage Control and issued a cease-and-desist order by the City of Escondido.

His restaurant on Grand Avenue just opened 17 days ago.

When asked what he had to say to critics who think he should close and are worried about the coronavirus killing San Diegans, he said, "listen, my heart goes out to everybody that's passed away, one death is too many. To those critics who have something to say about my decision, listen I respect their decision. I respect that they have the choice to not have to come here they don't have to support me, all I ask is to support my decision."

He said strangers have yelled and ranted to him about his decision.

He said what is more compelling, is how the community has shown their support, "it's been an overwhelming response. It makes my hair stand up, I'm going to be honest with you, the community has been unbelievable."

Other restaurants are staying open too and Locricchio encourages more to follow their lead.

This while hospitalizations continue to soar and health officials say it's safest to stay home.

Locricchio said the choice is yours.

He said the criminal citation means he could have his Liquor License temporarily taken away. He said the District Attorney will determine whether to prosecute.