TOMS RIVER — The death of a black man at the hands of police in Minnesota has prompted an apology from a restaurant in New Jersey.

Riv's Toms River Hub on Thursday issued the mea culpa on its Facebook page for a provocative sign it posted six years ago in response to the July 2014 homicide of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer investigating the sale of loose cigarettes. Garner was seen on video struggling to repeatedly say "I can't breathe," a phrase that became ubiquitous at Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

"I can breathe. I obey the law," the electronic sign blared outside Rivoli's Italian & Seafood Restaurant on Fischer Boulevard in December 2014.

The eatery has since closed and reopened with a new name in a new location. But the old sign has come back to haunt them as the nation's attention is on a new police killing: 46-year-old George Floyd was seen on video gasping for breath on Monday as a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than seven minutes and distressed bystanders pleaded with officers to help.

New Jersey-raised comedian John Poveromo on Wednesday resurfaced a picture of the Rivoli's 2014 sign.


"We’re all trying to do our best to help small businesses during this time but let’s make sure we’re helping the ones that deserve it," Poveromo said.

"Besides their family serving s*** food to the public since they first opened, being Anti-Vax and sharing 'plandemic' propaganda since we’ve been quarantined, the Rivolis first went public as garbage human beings in 2016 by exploiting the death of Eric Garner and are not worth your time or money during this pandemic."

Riv's Toms River Hub responded Thursday afternoon by saying that "what was done to George Floyd on Monday is a disgrace and there is NO way we support that. The post that is circulating right now is from over 6 years and if I could go back in time I wouldn’t posted that on my signage. Again, we apologize."


The restaurant owner did not immediately return New Jersey 101.5's request Thursday evening for further comment.

Some reacted to the apology with forgiveness.

"Tony Rivoli is a great man who runs a great business," one person wrote. "We’ve all made mistakes in the past and for most of us we were lucky there wasn’t social media."

But others found it hard to swallow.

"You only apologized because it went viral," another person said. "Why didn’t you apologize 6 years ago? You’re only sorry because it’s hitting you where it hurts... your wallet!"

Poveromo took another dig:


Restaurateur Tony Rivoli also opened Rivoli's Grill & Chill in Howell.

The video of Floyd's killing has prompted the Minneapolis mayor and Minnesota governor to call for criminal charges against the officers involved. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI said they are investigating after President Donald Trump tweeted in support of a swift probe.

Police said Floyd had matched the description of someone who tried to use a counterfeit bill at a convenience store.

In addition to demonstrations across the country this week, the death has also incited several days of civil unrest and sporadic looting in St. Paul and Minneapolis, with the governor calling on the National Guard on Thursday to control the violence.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

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