Support for California restaurant defiance showcases reopening frustrations

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The local California Restaurant Association chapter is still advising all restaurants to adhere to all shelter in place orders

FRESNO, California (KSEE) — Even after getting its first fine, Waffle Shop in Fresno isn’t planning to stop dine-in services soon. Meanwhile, other restaurants continue to await further guidance from the state so they can reopen too.

His fine wasn’t even handed over to him, but customers already handed over money to Waffle Shop owner Ammar Ibrahim to cover the costs. The first fine after a warning is $1,000, under Fresno’s shelter in place order.

The second fine will be $5,000 and the third will be $10,000. However, that doesn’t matter to Ibrahim. He says he will keep opening his restaurant back up.

“Until the city attorney general walks in here and shuts me down, then we can have a conversation,” Ibrahim said. “It’s not just me. It’s millions of Americans that are asking to go back to work.”

A steady flow of customers kept Waffle Shop staff busy Friday, some even waited outside for close to an hour. Many supporting the restaurant to show their disgust at current shelter in place orders.

“I think what the city is doing is totally criminal. I think the mayor oughta be thrown out of office and arrested for treason,” said customer Barry Halagian.

Among the supports was Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld.

“This has been long overdue. We understood [we needed to shelter in place] the first two weeks, we didn’t know what we were [up against]. But, now for the past six-to-seven weeks, we know,” Bredefeld said.

With no signs of Waffle Shop closing dine-in services again, Chuck Van Fleet, the Fresno chapter president of the California Restaurant Association, is advising restaurants to be patient and follow shelter in place orders.

However, he admits it is frustrating especially with the latest guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday. For businesses like restaurants, bars, and hair salons to reopen, counties will have to follow strict guidelines.

One of them is there can’t be COVID-19 deaths in the last 14 days, which Van Fleet describes as unrealistic at the moment.

“You can’t do it with a city the size of Fresno,” he said.

A state task force will be releasing guidelines for restaurants on Tuesday. Van Fleet, with the help of his CRA chapter, has been working on guidelines in conjunction with state and county partners to make the transition to reopening smooth.

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