San Diego

Restaurant Owner Featured on Instagram Page Promoting Noncompliant Businesses Explains Defiance


Between the trolley, the street construction and the public bus route – it’s loud on Fourth Avenue between C Street and Broadway in downtown San Diego. So loud, the owner of The Local says even if outdooring dining was allowed, it wouldn’t work for her restaurant.

“We just can’t survive anymore,” owner Mina Desiderio said. “We got to get open.”

Desiderio said The Local is now $350,000 in debt. A couple weeks ago, she decided to reopen outdoor and indoor dining up to 25% capacity.

She's not alone. In fact, businesses aren't just ignoring health orders, they're promoting that fact on social media.

San Diego Freedom (@sandiegofree) is an Instagram account devoted exclusively to promoting defiant businesses, and in just a few weeks it's garnered more than 16,700 followers. The public account promoted The Local in a post last week.

“A lot of restaurants are in desperate mode right now,” Desiderio said.

Late last month, Mayor Todd Gloria signed an executive order calling on police and the city attorney to aggressively fine businesses not in compliance.

NBC 7 checked, and city police are writing up more tickets.

In the first 17 days of December, San Diego police ticketed six businesses. Since Mayor Gloria's order, officers have cited 22 businesses during the same time period this month.

But those numbers aren't enough to deter folks from circumventing health orders. It's not hard to find people dining outside, or even inside, at restaurants all across San Diego County.

Desiderio believes public money would be better spent helping businesses survive, instead of finding ways to fine them.

“It’s upsetting. It’s disappointing right now,” Desiderio said in response to the harsh rhetoric from local officials. “If we don’t open our doors, we’re going to shut our doors forever, and I really don’t want to do that. I think enough is enough. We need to open and get back to work. And there’s just too much hypocrisy going on. The fact that I can go to Nordstrom, go shop at the mall, makes no sense.”

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