The last straw – A video showing a restaurant owner blocking in the vehicle of a health inspector with his truck after being forced to shut his doors has gone viral. The owner of Bread and Barley in Covina, California, Carlos Roman spoke with Diverge Media over the phone about what happened that day.
Walk me through that day
“That was a very frustrating day. It started out and I got a phone call from my manager who is also the waitress – right now everybody is doing everything we have a very limited staff, we’re really struggling, we’re really hurting and they banned outdoor dining. So here we are doing takeout orders, to-go orders and people go and they order their food and they sit and they wait.”
“Well, I set up two tables under my patio area for people to sit and wait for their food. And one couple had sat and they opened up their take-out box and they were picking at their fries or what-not and another guy was sitting at the public bench that’s in front of the restaurant that’s owned by the city and so I get this phone call and she says someone’s out there taking pictures. Ok, I said, go ask them who they are – you know just what can I help you with?
She asked him and he said I’m with the health department, people are dining outside, you’re in violation of the Covid protocols and I’m going to have to write up a citation – so I’m going to go back to my car and write up a citation.”
The next piece of information is what Carlos said was his last straw;
“She called me crying. She was like Carlos I don’t know what to do I mean we can’t do anything at this point – he said no one can sit on the pubic bench in front of the restaurant even if they’re waiting for their food and I lost it. I said man this is just overstepping to the point where I’ve done everything I can to comply to the point where I’m complying right off a cliff I’m going out of business because I can’t afford it anymore – and here they’re going to do this?”
This happened on a Sunday. According to the Bread and Barley owner they’ve hired more people to enforce these Covid protocols. “They’re really putting their efforts into killing us,” Mr. Roman said.
It was at this point that the Bread and Barley owner said he lost it.
“I drove over and I thought this guy is going to hear everything. He needs to understand, the inspectors need to understand – that it’s not just doing your job. You’re putting people out of work, you’re putting people out of business – this is beyond doing your job. So that’s what I did. I pulled up behind him – I blocked him, I blocked the whole street. I thought I want everyone to hear – I want everyone to hear this I want everyone to know what these people are doing.”
His waitress came out and recorded the video. Mr. Roman got out of his truck and proceeded to knock on the health inspector’s car and ask what he did to break the law.
“Do you mind telling me what I’m doing wrong – How am I breaking the law? How is feeding people illegal? I don’t understand what’s going on here” Mr. Roman recalls asking the health inspector.
The viral video
He told the officer “If we can’t work then he can’t work. This is what happens when people get desperate – I’m desperate. Who’s going to pay her car payment (pointing to Bread and Barley’s waitress who was recording the video)? Who’s going to pay my cook’s rent? I want it to be hard on everyone I want everyone to see how hard this shit is. This guy needs to know how hard it is.”
He then turned to face the health inspector and began addressing him;
“You’re out here enforcing doing your job – did you get a paycheck on Friday? My people don’t. I bet you got a paycheck, didn’t you. You’re just doing your job right – we’re all in this together. When I go to a bank do I tell the bank the health department said it’s ok? The health department said I don’t have to pay you, the health department said I can’t make a living – I can’t make any money. Is that what I tell the bank?”
The desperate business owner did not relent;
“What do I tell my employees? He’s out here enforcing it – you don’t enforce a f*****g rule without any consequences. There’s consequences to everything in this world. Do you know the consequences – they can’t pay their bills. F**k me, this isn’t about me – they can’t pay their bills! The cook just had a baby!”
The police officer then told the man to step back and said “you’re talking to somebody who’s getting orders from his supervisor – I understand you’re the owner for a business but this is not the way to settle things. You can talk to a supervisor.”
“What is, what is?” Mr. Roman interjected, “I’ve been talking to supervisors for how long now? I talked to his supervisor – God damn.”
“I understand you’re upset – a lot of people are upset – but it’s unnecessary that you’re doing all of this I’m asking you to move your truck so you don’t get a tow.” the officer said.
“This guy doesn’t get to go do his job all day.”
“He has a job” the police officer interjected. Mr. Roman fired back “Do you have a job?”
“We all have jobs” the police officer interjected again. Mr. Roman didn’t back down and made another important point to the officer on the scene “Are you able to do yours? Did the health department come and say sorry you can’t do your job?
“I don’t agree with the things that my job does but I have to do them because I have to provide for my family,” the officer said. Mr. Roman replied “Ok, we don’t even have a job to provide for our families! Give me a better way – what do I do?“
The officer told Mr. Roman “You go through protocol – you contact the city.” Mr. Roman then brought light to the reality of the situation “In the meantime what do I do with my building? In the meantime what does this person who has a job do? What do my employees do – they have jobs. It’s the same thing!”
The supervisor then came to the scene and Mr. Roman moved his truck upon the supervisor’s request. The conversation continued for roughly 15 more minutes.
“We can’t do outdoor dining, we can’t serve food to go, no one can sit outside no one can sit on the f*****g city bench in front of the restaurant. Goddammit, what the f**k do they want us to do – we can’t survive anymore man. I can’t pay the f*****g bills – I’m behind on everything. I can’t pay the bills. What do I tell them? The health department told me they have a job to do. Should I tell the bank that? Should I tell my employees their wages will come from were all in this together – the health department said so. It’s F*****g bullshit – I’m sick of it. I have a patio on city property – it’s not even my property! He wants me to be the police. He said if anyone is sitting on a f*****g bench in front of your place you have to tell them to leave. I’m not you (talking to police), that ain’t my f*****g job!”
The owner of bread and Barley then asked the officers what the law was. The police supervisor told Mr. Roman he would have to talk to the health inspector about that – that it was a health department issue.
Mr. Roman replied “It’s a health issue and I can’t operate anymore man. Desperate. Desperate – I can’t pay my bills.”
Mr. Roman continued to voice his frustration “I’m gonna go home, sit in my f*****g room, look at my kids and say guys it’s a matter of time before we starve to death – right. Nothing we can do – we’re all in this together. We’ll just all starve to death and die. You guys all got a paycheck – right? City budget passed, everyone’s got their paychecks – she doesn’t, the cook doesn’t. My head chef just had a baby – he doesn’t know if he has a job. The mortgage – I don’t know how to pay it. The Gas company, water company – no one has told me we’ll let you slide. What do I got to do?
Desperate – f*****g desperate. A bunch of idiots burn down L.A and everyone responds – let’s respond to that. Is that what we gotta do – we all got to go march and burn the f*****g city down for anyone to listen? Someone that follows the law and does everything the way it’s supposed to be – I have to get this f*****g desperate? Every F*****g permit paid. Health permit paid, ABC license paid, city permit paid. All my permits to build the building – paid. Everything f******g paid – everything taken care of. I go by the book for every f*****g thing.”
You can watch the full video of the incident here;
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The effects of Lockdowns and Covid protocols
Carlos Roman, the owner of Bread and Barley originally employed 14 staff members. However, since the Covid protocols began he is now employing just 6 employees. This has been the reality of prolonged Covid protocols and on-going lockdowns for Bread and Barley.
Since the closure of indoor dining, Bread and Barley’s alcohol sales have taken a drastic hit. Mr. Roman told Diverge Media that “the alcohol sales are 10 percent of what they used to be – which is the only place where I make any money. The food – the food has almost been provided as a service in the past just to keep people happy and we do our best to have like the greatest food we can in order to have food as an attraction – and alcohol is where people stay and actually spend their money. But anyone who goes out knows that. You might have a meal where your plate cost was $15 but you drank 3 alcoholic beverages at 8-10 dollars each – so you far exceeded the plate cost with the alcohol.”
Mr. Roman told us that alcohol sales are “the only place” where he makes any money. He doesn’t make any money on the food – he breaks even.
No Help and no breaks for struggling business in California
I asked Carlos Roman, the owner of Bread and Barley in Covina California if the government there had done anything to help struggling business owners – they haven’t.
“No, a matter of fact I’ll tell ya. I asked the Health Department supervisor – I said hey, every year I have to pay for the health permit and it’s right around 1000 dollars sometimes a little more, I said are you guys giving any breaks on the health permit this year being that we have to operate at such a limited capacity what’s the discount on the health permit? She said well you still have a health permit and your able to do dine out or carryout so no there is no break – you have to pay the same amount. So they don’t care – they really don’t care. There is no help here, you’re on your own – as a small business person we’re on our own.”
The Go-Fund me
I asked Mr. Roman about Bread and Barley’s Go-fund me and asked him “how are you feeling about the future going forward – what’s your outlook and what are your hopes?”
Mr. Roman’s response should be a wake-up call for people advocating for lockdowns all around the world;
“I’m scared, I’m scared. I’m scared – I don’t know if I can continue in California at all. I’m so behind on bills – 50,000 dollars pretty much catches me up to current and they just passed a resolution that there’s going to be another 30 days of shutdown which is going to put me into another $50,000 debt very easily. So I have to be very careful how I save and take care of this money because what I want to do is stay alive – I don’t know that any amount of money is enough to do that.”
This is the reality of lockdowns and their effects on small business owners. A small business whose employees rely on their income to pay their bills. Some might say that the ability to be able to make a living is essential – an idea lost on many.
The restaurant business is a difficult business to get ahead in during good times – let alone when accompanied with a myriad of restrictions that are subject to constant changes.
Mr. Roman will be joining Diverge Media on January 18th to talk about his story and the constant struggle of operating under Covid restrictions. If you would like to support his Go-Fund Me click here.
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