This New York Diner’s Response to Snitches and the Overzealous Health Department Will Make Your Day

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The effects of coronavirus mandates on small businesses, and especially restaurants, have been catastrophic. New York, outside of New York City, went into “Phase 3” in July, and restaurants were able to open back up under severe restrictions, including reduced capacity. Very few of them are doing well under this arrangement. ABC reported that more than 16,000 restaurants have closed permanently.

One diner in Seneca County, N.Y., has had enough and took to social media to tell the public what the county is doing to them. The trouble started when a snitch ate a meal at A.J.’s Family Diner and then called the health department to report too many people in the establishment. This prompted the restaurant to post a notice telling people who are uncomfortable and living in fear to stay out of their business. But the harassment had only just begun. The snitch prompted a full-scale inspection by the health department that sent an inspector to rearrange all the tables and threaten a fine of $1000.

The New York State Health Department actually has a form for people to snitch on businesses.

“Well it’s official some good samaritan, I use that term very loosely and sarcastically, decided to come into the diner for a meal and halfway through their meal they decided they were feeling uncomfortable because of the amount of people that were in the diner,” wrote A.J.’s Family Diner on their Facebook page. “So rather than asking the staff to box up their food so they could leave, the complaintant…proceeded to turn us into [sic] the health department.”

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The Seneca County Health Department has now taken over their restaurant, says owner Angel Lawrence. To illustrate this, the diner’s management posted signs all over the restaurant to make sure everyone knows whom to blame when customers show up at the newly “approved” space that restricts customers. “Approved Table by New Management NYS & Seneca County. So far we can still work and pay the bills,” reads one sign.

“Apparently, we are incapable of the decision making process. Therefore, New York State and Seneca County are now doing our thinking for us. Per this new management, this table is no longer available,” reads another. “However, we still pay the bills.”

A sign on the door says, “Attention potential customers! Please be advised we are experiencing a takeover of our management by NYS and Seneca County. We are approved for ‘6’ tables. Please seat yourselves at approved tables…the new management is allowing seating at the counter. If you are not coming in together or sleeping together then there must be 3 stools between your party and the next party. We still get to work here and pay the bills.”

A heartfelt post defended the staff and explained why they cannot wear masks in the kitchen, which is presumably a part of the reason the snitch turned them in.

The staff does not appreciate it when people sneakily take their picture. If you want to take their picture just ask them. Like this job isn’t hard enough for them, now you have them all stressed out about what are we going to get turned in for next and when?…Before you decide to be vindictive stop and ask yourself how would you feel? Think about all the problems in your life. Would you still enjoy going to a job like this? They wear masks which they hate, they come to my window and slide the mask down just a little bit just below their nose so they can get a breath and hope nobody sees them. When it’s 97 degrees outside you’re all telling me how hot it is. Let me tell you my husband put a thermometer in here one day just so we could see how hot it was and it was 140 degrees. I thought no way that can’t really be accurate but it was. So if you want to turn Us in for no [masks] in the kitchen, be my guest. That’s where I draw the line okay we already have existing health issues I don’t need people dropping.

The culture of snitching to ruin people’s lives and businesses is despicable and it’s commendable that A.J.’s Family Diner has the guts to call it out. Owner Angel Lawrence told PJ Media, “I know the county is doing their job, but we need the lines of communication to be open.”

“If I had known the rules were going to change so drastically I might not have opened up,” she added. Rules for restaurants are getting more strict even as coronavirus numbers plummet. Seneca County, according to the NYS Health Department, has only had 95 cases and 1 death.

Lawrence says the rules for business owners change so rapidly, no one can keep up and the county meetings are still closed to the public due to COVID-19. “I should be getting information from someplace other than Facebook,” said Lawrence in reference to the county’s poor communication efforts. “It’s a bad thing when anyone can make an anonymous phone call and destroy a business,” she said. “Any enemy you’ve ever made can make your life a living hell.”

Lawrence has agreed to a few changes that are going to cost her more money in order to have two more tables added to the approved six. “I can have two more tables if I install plexiglass, but if you want to tell me how to run my business, then you should pay my bills,” she said.

PJ Media reached out to the Seneca County Health Department to ask if they plan on subsidizing the changes they are requiring Lawrence to make. They did not respond.

Lawrence says she’s setting up a meeting for business owners, town supervisors, and local representatives to hash out the inconsistencies. “If it reaches more than 50 people, I guess we’ll call it a protest,” she said.

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