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Defiant Carmel Restaurant Owner Says He'll Stay Open Despite COVID-19 Health Order Fines

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA (KPIX 5) -- Despite recent fines for violating the coronavirus shelter-in-place order by allowing table service and serving customers without masks or social distancing at his dining establishment, a Monterey County restaurant owner says he's not backing down.

"I've had it. So have my customers. So has the state of California. Let's open up," said restaurant owner Jeffrey LeTowt.


LeTowt has kept his Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurant the Tuck Box open in defiance of the health order for more than a week.

He said he lost $60,000 in the month and a half he was closed. He contends the risk is low. There have been 317 COVID-19 cases in Monterey County with six deaths.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit California's COVID-19 Website

"This is no longer sound medical practices. It's all about politics and I'm not going to play. They are way beyond their legal purview here. There is no crisis," LeTowt said.

His supporters, some from outside the area, have been coming to defiantly dine-in.

"We want to rebel. And we're old people! We should be following the rules, but the rules are getting ridiculous," said neighbor Bella Iffla.

Carmel Police and the Monterey County DA's office have begun cracking down. LeTowt has been fined $1,000 for violating the order and could be put in jail.

"If we have to take additional action to secure compliance, then we'll do that," said Emily Hickok, the Monterey County Deputy District Attorney..

LeTowt could also face fines of $2,500 for each sit down meal he has served for violating the state's unfair competition law.

Other restaurants up and down the street are still serving take-out meals only.

"All the people in there, sitting next to each other. I mean, I don't know what they're thinking. This is a pandemic," said Carmel business owner Chip Whittpenn.

The restaurant has become a battleground between those who disagree with the shelter in place order and those who think what the restaurant is doing is dangerous.

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