While other Carmel restaurants are obeying the county’s shelter-in-place order by either remaining closed or offering take-out service, it’s been business as usual at The Tuck Box despite three citations issued by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office on May 13, for offering dine-in service to customers in violation of the order.
Business is actually pretty good thanks to owner Jeffrey LeTowt’s interviews on TV news stations, where he’s all but dared the DA's Office to arrest him. On Friday morning a stream of customers showed up to support the restaurant the day after the announcement was publicized.
“I’m still going to stay open. If you want to send the SWAT Team and cuff me, come do it,” LeTowt said in an interview on KSBW on Thursday night.
He’s being called a hero by members of a group calling itself Concerned Citizens of Monterey County. The group contends the shelter-in-place order is illegal and recently hosted two public protests in Monterey. The group is raising money online for a legal fund to defend LeTowt.
As of Saturday, there was more than $12,000 raised of a $50,000 goal.
After the Weekly attempted multiple times to interview LeTowt on the phone, a reporter went to the restaurant on Friday morning to speak with him. A woman identifying herself as the manager was serving two couples at different tables. Neither she nor the customers were wearing face coverings as mandated by an order issued in April by Monterey County Health Officer Edward Moreno.
The manager told the reporter that LeTowt was not at the restaurant and would not be giving any more interviews. (He did an interview with another television station later that day.)
When asked why she wasn’t wearing a face covering per the county order, she became agitated and said, “Because my customers don’t want me to.” Shortly after, she ordered the reporter off the premises.
A little later that morning two officers of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control showed up at the restaurant. LeTowt emerged from inside and spoke to the men, who told LeTowt in an apologetic tone of voice that if he continued to defy the order he would jeopardize his alcohol license. They shook hands with LeTowt before leaving. The officers declined to be interviewed afterward.
LeTowt said in interviews with other news outlets he estimates he lost $60,000 in revenue in the month and a half he was closed. When he heard the state's stay-at-home order was being extended he decided he had had enough.
“It’s all politics and you do not have the right to bankrupt me,” he said on KSBW. He insisted his constitutional rights were being violated.
The DA’s Office stated that they are still investigating the case and would weigh further action against LeTowt. He’s scheduled for an arraignment in court on July 13 on the three misdemeanor charges which carry a $1,000 fine each and/or jail time.
On Saturday, LeTowt's staff was still serving customers who were enjoying their breakfasts on the patio under sunny skies.
Parker Seibold contributed to this report.