‘We have to stand against this’: Lodi restauranteur defies stay-at-home order by opening indoors and outdoors

Local News

LODI, Calif. (KTXL) — Denis Xenos has owned and operated Denis’ Country Kitchen in Lodi for the last 30 years, and said his business isn’t going down without a fight.

 “We have to stand against this,” he declared.

Xenos said not only is he not shutting his restaurant down again to comply with the new regional stay-at-home order but added he’ll be open for outdoor and indoor dining.

“‘Cause I believe it’s the right thing to do,” Xenos said.

To get around the governor’s stay-at-home order, Xenos launched a membership registry for his restaurant, believing it’s a loophole.

“The thing is not to be open to the public, to make it legal, so you can be open for members only, but not to the public,” he told FOX40.

Customers pay a dollar to get in and then have full access to the rest of his menu.

“I’m not a law-breaker,” Xenos said. “I like to cooperate with the government. I know they’re supposed to be there to help us, protect us — but all of a sudden, I realized that wasn’t working that way.”

San Joaquin County Counsel says no such loophole exists and says the state’s health order applies to all residents and businesses in the state.

In regards to the claim of a loophole, the County does not believe or know of any loopholes in the State’s Health Orders. The State’s Health Order applies to all residents and businesses in the State of California. The application of the Order is based on the activity being done, regardless what the resident or business calls the activity. For example, the activity of selling food is covered by the State’s “Covid-19 Industry Guidance: Restaurants” regardless of what people or businesses engaging in that activity call themselves. Previously, the County has interpreted the restaurant guidance to apply to more than one club in the County, and believes the State’s Order would apply to Denis’ Country Kitchen even if they instituted the $1 membership program described in the email. Any other questions regarding purported “loopholes” or interpretation of the State’s Orders should be directed to the State’s Department of Public Health.

San Joaquin County Counsel

Xenos said he plans to follow other safety guidelines like regularly sanitizing eating areas to make it as safe as possible.

“We don’t want to make anybody sick. You know, we don’t want to get sick and we don’t want to get anybody sick,” he said. “We know how to take care of ourselves, and we’re just using our common sense and faith to do that.”

But Xenos added that staying open is what’s best for his business and his employees.

“These employees are my family,” he declared. “I’ve had employees for 25 years, 12 years, four years. We’re all long-term here, so we are a family.”

The San Joaquin County Public Health Department sent the following statement to FOX40:

The Regional Stay Home Order is intended to stop mixing between households that can lead to COVID-19 spread and allow access to critical services and outdoor activities to preserve residents’ physical and mental health. Therefore, the new Order requires restaurants, and anyone selling or providing food, to operate only for take-out or delivery. As stay-at-home orders are modified, it is essential that all possible steps be taken to ensure the safety of workers and the public. Precise information about the number and rates of COVID-19 by industry or occupational groups, including among critical infrastructure workers, is not available at this time. There have been multiple outbreaks in a range of workplaces, indicating that workers are at risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19 infection.

San Joaquin County Public Health Department

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