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‘Bring it!’ Jersey couple opens eatery, in defiance of COVID regs and fines: ‘It’s our right to earn a living’

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A New Jersey couple has reopened their restaurant to inside dining in defiance of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s lingering coronavirus-related ban on such activities.

The couple, Brian and Debbie Brindisi, told local media they were called by their alarm company at around 4:30 a.m. Friday to notify them that three doors at their eatery, Lakeside Diner, had been broken into.

They immediately went to their restaurant and found Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, a locksmith and the Lacey Township police on the scene changing the door locks, NJ.com reported.

But later Friday morning, the couple reopened their establishment and began serving customers inside and out.

“We came down here. The (Ocean County) sheriff’s department was here. A locksmith was here. Lacey Township police were here. They were changing the locks,” Brian Brindisi told the news outlet.

“You would think that they wouldn’t because they’re trespassing,” he added. “But I guess because it was an executive order from our wonderful governor. They didn’t want to do it. But they’re doing their jobs as well.”

As the locks were being changed, Brian Brindisi managed to get inside his diner. The couple reopened at 7 a.m. and were inundated with customers inside and out.

The diner has been allowing customers to eat inside since June, in defiance of Murphy’s executive order banning indoor dining. The Brindisis said they needed to make some inside seating available so they could remain open and afloat, financially.

In doing so, they limited indoor seating and added safety precautions when outdoor seating was all taken, Brian Brindisi told Patch.

A July 31 order from Commissioner of the Department of Health Judy Persichilli instructed the couple to stop allowing patrons to dine inside, citing four previous violations on June 5, and July 1, July 24, and July 28.

But by Friday, the number of citations had grown to 10, Debbie Brindisi said.

The couple said they believe that Murphy’s executive action preventing them from fully utilizing their restaurant’s seating capacity is an unconstitutional overreach.

“As well as a need financially to pay our bills here, pay our bills at home, pay our employees, it’s also a constitutional right,” Debbie Brindisi said.

As other states did as well, Murphy ordered all restaurants closed in March as the pandemic spread and coronavirus infections spiked. He relaxed his order in mid-June to allow for outdoor dining and was set to permit in-house seating July 2 when he abruptly changed his mind as positive COVID cases began to rise.

The couple posted images of the locksmith at work on their Facebook page. They also posted images of some of the citations they have received.

The couple also launched a GoFundMe page to handle the cost of the fines, vowing that anything over the $1,000 goal of the campaign would be donated to charity. As of this writing, $1,340 had been raised.

As for the virus, New Jersey experienced one of the country’s highest infection and death rates, with more than 195,000 and more than 16,000, respectively, according to World Meters.

Coronavirus cases continue to level off and even fall around the country.

Jon Dougherty

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