Citations are mounting for a Forked River diner as the owner ignores New Jersey's COVID orders banning indoor dining -- a measure that has been in place for months due to the pandemic.
However, just like the mandate prohibiting indoor dining has been in place for months, many people have been partaking in indoor dining at Lakeside Diner for months.
"We’ve been looking for someplace that actually opened," Laura Mathew, from Toms River, said.
Owner Brian Brindisi said he’s taking CDC-compliant temperature checks and hand sanitizing is required before you get to a table. There is also a lot of cleaning here, including a weekly deep cleaning that also targets the air vents.
"We take the virus very seriously here but we also believe in the constitution here," Brindisi said.
Nevertheless, Brindisi said he's not trying to make a political statement, he just wants to stay in business.
"What do they expect us to do? I've been in business for 27 years. Should I just shut down and forget everything I've done for thirty years?" he said
Brindisi's sentiments are shared with other restaurateurs across New Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy has only allowed outdoor dining, however Lakeside Diner is limited when it comes to dining al fresco because it shares its parking lot with other businesses.
Meanwhile, Lakeside Diner customers are fully supporting of the defiance, despite the risk.
"I've got four stents in my heart, I've got 39 rods and screws in my back. I survived Vietnam. I can survive this," Kerry Sneddon, of Forked River, said
But can Brindisi survive the fines he’s facing following the cease and desist order he got from the attorney general's office a week ago?
"I have to pay my bills. I don't have any other way to do this," Brindisi said.
Meanwhile, state officials are fully aware of this situation: from the county prosecutor to the governor’s office. But Brindisi says he’s ready to go to court if they try to shut him down.