NJ shuts down Cuban Pete’s for refusing to follow COVID rules
MONTCLAIR — A restaurant owner who refused to follow New Jersey's pandemic restrictions on indoor dining and racked up three state violations — before eventually relenting and saying he would heed the rules — was locked out of his business Monday under a court order.
Cuban Pete's on Bloomfield Avenue was shut down early in the morning, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office told New Jersey 101.5. The closure, enforced by Montclair Police, was first reported by NorthJersey.com.
According to Montclair Local, Dominick Restaino is due in court on Nov. 19.
"I never thought I was above the law. I just thought I was right," Restaino previously told New Jersey 101.5, after Montclair police arrived at his business on Oct. 14.
Restaino said at the time police, acting on an order from the state Department of Health, had been intending to shut him down. But he said said that day, law enforcement spoke to the prosecutor's office and the restaurant stayed open — "I'm not going to question why."
And Restaino at the time said that going forward he'd obey the state's coronavirus capacity restrictions.
But a judge's order — provided Monday to New Jersey 101.5 by the state Office of the Attorney General — issued Oct. 15 authorized the business to be shut and padlocked. It wasn't clear from information sent by the OAG why it took another 11 days to shut the business down.
Gov. Phil Murphy's executive orders during the pandemic limit currently indoor dining to 25% of capacity, with at least 6 feet of space between tables. Diners and staff are required to wear face coverings, except when eating or drinking.
In early October, Restaino said he was willing to go to jail when he was operating at full capacity, which includes 292 seats indoors and room for roughly 100 patrons outside.
According to the court order, Cuban Pete’s was cited a total of three times for violating state executive orders. On Aug. 7 and Aug. 23, citations were issued while a full ban on indoor dining still was in effect.
On Oct. 4, a citation was issued for operating about the 25% capacity limit for indoor dining areas.
The action against Cuban Pete's came as the state has seen a steady increase in the number of new, daily confirmed cases of COVID-19.
On Monday, NJ saw 1,223 new cases of coronavirus based on test results. The Rate of Transmission had risen to 1.23. When the RT is above 1.0, it's estimated that on average, one new person is getting the virus for each person already infected.
With previous reporting by Dan Alexander