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Orange County Restaurant Defies State Orders by Reopening Dining Room Again

Plus, food from Knott’s Berry Farm, WeHo’s Carnaval and Pride festivals, and the resurgence of car experiences

Nomads Canteen in San Clemente
Nomads Canteen in San Clemente
Matthew Kang
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

As California restaurants struggle with the forced closure of dining rooms, one Orange County eatery defied state law for the second time, by reopening Thursday through Sunday. Nomads Canteen in San Clemente opened last Saturday, and owner Jeff Gourley says he will keep his dining area open.

The Orange County Register reports that owner Jeff Gourley tried unsuccessfully to socially distance customers as they piled in. Gourley says the restaurant sold out of every food item and bottle of alcohol.

As soon as the restaurant opened yesterday, patrons formed a line and waited up to 45 minutes to get in. Some outlets are labeling Nomads Canteen as the leader of the “stay at home resistance,” but the restaurant hasn’t met with much pushback from local authorities.

Gourley’s action comes at a risk. California’s state agency that regulates alcohol sales issued a threat for those in violation of state stay-at-home orders. The Alcoholic Beverage Control noted that businesses who flout state law could lose its beer and wine or liquor license.

As the State of California eases restrictions for select businesses today, restaurants are still restricted from opening dining rooms. Newsom plans to release guidance for restaurants this Tuesday. In the meantime, Gourley opened yesterday and plans to continue service through the weekend.

In other news:

—Starting yesterday, Knott’s Berry Farm reopened its Knott’s Chicken-to-Go Restaurant, Farm Bakery and the Knott’s Berry Market for pick-up only, according to NBC-4. The Buena Park theme park remains closed.

—Citing health and public safety concerns surrounding COVID-19, the city of West Hollywood defunded and canceled the annual Halloween Carnival this week. The WeHo Times reports the October event along with June’s L.A. Pride, “is in a long list of city-sponsored events that will not be happening in 2020.”

—The Los Angeles Times published a report on the resurgence of fast food drive-thru and drive-in movie theaters throughout the Southern California region.

—Chef Esdras Ochoa wrote a first-person experience on Zagat about operating restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ochoa owns Mexicali Taco & Co. and Salazar. He opens up abut his current challenges, while planning for a second location for Mexicali Taco & Co.

—Season 17 of Top Chef All Stars: LA is well underway. During episode eight’s Restaurant Wars, the temporary restaurant competition between chefs took place at Row DTLA.