MONTAGUE, Ore. — Ken Crawford says that his restaurant, the Dutchman, was just beginning to take off earlier this year when he was forced to shutter dine-in service as coronavirus hit California. Having reopened along with the rest of Siskiyou County, he isn't willing to go back.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced at a press briefing on Monday that bars, wineries, and indoor restaurants will have to halt dine-in again statewide as cases spike once more around the state.
Crawford took to the Dutchman's Facebook page on Tuesday after talking the matter over with his wife and the restaurant's owner, Rachel Richmond, in the weeks before.
"Our decision moving forward is neither rash or irresponsible, we are simply moving forward to protect our business and livelihood," Crawford wrote.
Between the statewide lockdown and an aneurysm that struck Crawford during that time, resulting in a pricey emergency room visit, he says that the Dutchman was on the ropes. The support of the local community, friends, and customers kept them going, though Crawford says that they remain behind on the building's lease payment.
Now Crawford and Richmond plan to keep the restaurant open — for dine-in as well as takeout — in spite of the Governor's latest mandate.
"We fully understand that some people will disagree with that decision," Crawford continued. "Ultimately it comes down to the fact that closing restaurants and other small businesses under the guise of 'flattening the curve' while Big Box businesses such as Walmart, Costco and others remain open is misguided. The restaurant industry operates under strict health guidelines to begin with."
Crawford said that they plan to keep the Dutchman open during their regular hours "until and unless forced to do otherwise."
"Simply, we are a very small business. Rachel and I, along with our staff, simply want to make a living providing delicious comfort food and excellent service to our community and outlying areas," Crawford said.
According to Crawford, the decision to stay open for dine-in isn't a political statement "per se." He says that the decision was made because it's how he and Richmond make a living, and because they've received little assistance from the programs put in place to help small businesses during the pandemic. Richmond has owned the restaurant too briefly to qualify for some of the programs that would have helped them endure the shutdown.
"It was our customers, supporters and friends that made it possible for us to continue operations. If it was not for this community, we would have never made it," Crawford said. "If we simply were to rely on take-out at this time, we won't make it through this. We have to stay open so that we can continue doing what we love to do and serve this community for years to come."
When California's stay-at-home order came down in March and through Siskiyou County's reopening, there were only a handful of positive coronavirus cases in the county. Since the area reopened, the county has identified several dozen new cases — though none have resulted in death.
In a June statement, Siskiyou County Sheriff John Lopey said that he would not rule out his agency enforcing the governor's coronavirus mandates as some other rural California law enforcement officials had done.
"I prefer to leave enforcement as a possibility because we do not know at this juncture what is going to happen with COVID-19 transmissions, and, I believe there could be instances where egregious and/or repetitive violations of the health officer or gubernatorial mandates or guidelines are evident and warrant enforcement," Lopey said. "This may involve a business, organizer of a large event, or may involve individual citizens."
Crawford told NewsWatch 12 says that he has yet to hear from state or Siskiyou County officials regarding an investigation or enforcement measures, nor is he certain of what the penalty could be if they do decide to intervene.