LEWIS COUNTY, Wash. - More support from the public, including the sheriff, is coming forward for a defiant restaurant in Lewis County. Spiffy’s Restaurant in Chehalis will face the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for defiantly operating indoor dining despite state restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a previous interview with Q13 News, restaurant owner Rod Samuelson said reopening his dining room in early December was his "peaceful protest" against Governor Jay Inslee’s mandate. L&I said Spiffy’s has racked up more than $100,000 in fines and a potential restraining order for breaking the rules. The case is scheduled to be heard, Tuesday, at Lewis County Superior Court.
The case is the talk of Lewis County—written in black and white on a billboard along I-5 North that reads, "Will Spiffy’s become a casualty in Inslee’s battle against businesses?"
Sheriff Rob Snaza hopes not.
"This has been hurtful to our community, to our economics. Our economy is being shut down because our governor has elected to determine who is essential and who is not," said Snaza.
Dave McMullan, a supporter of Snaza, recently posted a Facebook Live interview, which had more than 32,000 views as of Tuesday evening. In the interview, Snaza said he is standing with Spiffy’s against the state.
"We’re talking about single moms, single parents, or dual-parent income that both work at a restaurant and all their livelihood is based on their business and they’re losing that simply because someone decided to change the rulebook," said Snaza.
Inslee extended the temporary closure of indoor dining to January 4. During the Facebook Live interview, Snaza said he wants to see more information about why the closures were required in the first place.
"The data does not make sense. When they do contract tracing through all this data, they find that one percent or less of all that goes back to a restaurant or a bar. So, now we’re shutting down for less than one percent. It doesn’t make sense," said Snaza.
Representatives from the governor’s office said the comments in the Facebook video are "not fact-based," saying the state has "explained the data and science clearly."
"It’s hard to believe some leaders take health and safety seriously when they don’t want to wear masks and socially distance indoors, neither of which is happening in this video. The speakers appear to lack important facts and context about the state’s COVID response, but they have every opportunity to learn more from trusted professionals if they so choose," said representatives from the governor’s office.
"I know that we have laws out there and we have all these things going on, but at the same time what is right and what is wrong. We need to stand up for our constitutional right," said Snaza on Facebook.
Representatives from Lewis County Public Health & Social Services said they, "look forward to the day when restaurants can safely reopen."
"We appreciate all of our area restaurant owners who have chosen to follow the statewide restrictions on indoor dining in order to protect the health of our community," said the county health department representatives.
Throughout the pandemic, Snaza has made headlines about his views on face masks – telling people not to be "sheep." As he stands against the state with Spiffy’s, he echoed his same message as before.
"When I say don’t be a sheep I mean don’t be a sheep. I mean listen to yourself, check the facts out for yourself and make your own decision," said Snaza. "If you feel that you need to wear the mask, I encourage you to wear the mask. Wear it for your safety if that makes you feel right. But also respect the rights of everybody else. Let them make their choice."
Samelson declined to share his thoughts ahead of the court hearing. L&I will be represented by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.