The owner of the Del Taco in Santee believes that 99.9% of the high-schoolers who walk into his restaurant are great customers.
However, Duane Johnson, who declined to do an on-camera interview for NBC 7, blames the 0.1% of students from Santana High School for forcing him to close the restaurant’s dining room every weekday between 2-3:30 p.m.
“Most of the kids around here are great,” said Chambers, who lives near the school and restaurant. “They’re great kids. They’re good kids. They’re very respectful.”
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Chambers added that sometimes someone falls out of line and ruins it for everyone else. That’s why Johnson said he closes his Del Taco dining room when the school bell rings at 2:00 p.m. and reopens it at 3:30 p.m. He said some of the teenagers are unruly and treat his employees poorly.
“When that 0.1% comes in, they’re pretty bad,” said Deshawn Blue, who works in a Santee-area store.
Blue said he doesn’t blame Johnson for closing the indoor dining area to deter the students.
“A lot of kids will come in and just start throwing stuff around and make noise and not buy anything,” Blue said.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Chambers said. “He’s got to protect the other customers, other patrons, and he’s got to protect his employees.”
What’s happening at the Santee Del Taco is not a unique situation. The Burger King in Lakeside has a similar policy, when school gets out at the nearby El Capitan High School. However, an employee at the eatery said they don’t enforce the closure every day.
Santana High School’s principal declined to comment but said the district would speak on behalf of the school. A spokesman for the Grossmont Union High School District said:
“Mr. Johnson is a great Santee business owner, and the Santana High School administration appreciates his dedication to the Santee community. The administration is aware of this issue and will continue notifying any students'' parents that are acting in a way that is negative and disrespectful. We’'ll need their partnership to help stop this behavior. The school wants to remain good neighbors and have all of our students act in a way that is respectful, positive, and appropriate.”
“We learn from our elders,” Chambers said.
In the meantime, the Del Taco owner Johnson said the drive-through will remain open in the afternoon when the dining room is closed. He said he hopes to reopen completely once the small group begins behaving better.