But now, their act of defiance could lead to an arrest.
Brian Brindisi says he has had non-stop support for reopening the Lakeside Diner in Lacey Township, but someone has apparently now filed a criminal complaint against him.
"There's only two ways they're going to get me out of here, handcuffs or in a body bag, and I mean that," he said. "I don't mean that in a threat to the police, I'm just saying, I'm not leaving."
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Customers were waiting even before Brindisi arrived to open his lakeside diner Monday.
He's racked up 13 citations so far, defying Governor Phil Murphy's executive order that shut down indoor dining ever since the pandemic hit.
More than 15,000 people have died in the state, and nearly 200,000 have been infected.
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Brindisi withdrew retirement money to help his employees during the shutdown, and he also gave the diner's food away to soup kitchens, food pantries, and employees to keep them afloat.
The diner has outdoor seating, and he says the inside has been modified to comply with social distancing. Additionally, the staff sanitizes regularly.
A court order is expected later Monday, and Brindisi is waiting to see what will happen.
"They can do what they want to do up there," he said. "They want to waste time with me, somebody who has a small place like this? And this is what they want to waste their time on, instead of governing our state, goes to show you what we have working for us."
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