Orange County man sends anti-vax message to Venice Beach

A small political stance from Huntington Beach has been transplanted north to Venice Beach in recent weeks, and criticism from locals and tourists has not been winning.

Strollers, bikers and runners on Ocean Front Walk have expressed everything from sadness and disgust to a pronounced disinterest for a giant sign along the famous promenade that suggests people should despise the fighting vaccines. the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Leave the Vax, take the Cannoli” reads a vast mural on the side of an apartment building, three stories above street level in the heart of the popular Venice promenade. The post comes from a Huntington Beach restaurant, whose owner said he believed face masks and vaccines were a tyrannical theft of public freedom.

Tony Roman had previously posted signs in his restaurant Pasta e Vino de Basilico saying those wearing masks should remove them to be served. Last year, he paid a billboard post on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, reiterating his anti-mask point of view.

“Leave the Vax, take the Cannoli” is his latest message to Los Angeles County, described as “enemy territory” in his press release on the New Provocation. The message is a play on a famous line from the movie “The Godfather”. (After a mafia stunt in the classic movie, a mafia lieutenant tells a hit man to “drop the gun, take the cannoli” as they leave a murder scene.)

Arts agency assistant Jenna Shults thinks it’s a bad idea to discourage people from getting vaccinated.

(James Rainey / Los Angeles Times)

Residents of Venice have said they believe the owner of the Orange County restaurant is trying to get under the skin of residents of the famed liberal and free-wheeling seaside town. Passers-by said on Saturday that Roman was betraying his ignorance at best and, at worst, perpetuating anti-science views that endanger public health.

Although Los Angeles city officials have not said anything about the contents of the sign, they claim it was painted without a required permit, given the building’s historic status. A pending enforcement measure could result in the removal of advertising and fines.

“A cannoli won’t save us,” said a disgusted tourist named Barak, squinting at the message. “Vaccines have helped save people across the country and get out of this COVID coma we’ve been in. And for someone, with all the evidence, to keep spending money on spreading disinformation – it’s just not great. The New York resident declined to give his last name.

Dov Rudnick, a teacher

Dov Rudnick, a teacher, is upset that the message was delivered to Venice, where he was on Saturday for an annual public reading of “Moby Dick”.

(James Rainey / Los Angeles Times)

Dov Rudnick, a teacher from LA, had come to Ocean Front Walk for an annual two-day public reading of “Moby Dick”. He said the sign’s message was worse than misinformed.

“Actively telling people that the vaccine is harmful, that it should not be taken, that makes you complicit in the deadly trail of this virus,” said Rudnick, 44. “So it’s very, very worrying.”

Venice residents Lisa Spencer and Jordan Williamson had just finished a morning workout when the sign forced them to stop and watch it.

“The vaccine is a science. We all know that, ”Spencer said. “The goal is for all of us to do our part to overcome this pandemic. “

Williamson said the unvaccinated population and the continued spread of the virus affected him personally because doctors said he and other family members cannot visit his mother in North Carolina because she has an autoimmune disease that puts her at greater risk if she contracts COVID -19.

“I saw when they put [the sign] and a guy was jubilant. People don’t take it seriously and it stinks, ”said Williamson. “It’s been about two years since I saw my mother.”

Another couple who said they were on vacation in Colorado learned about the harsh consequences of refusing the vaccine. Kevin, who declined to give his last name for confidentiality reasons, said his cousin had died just two days earlier from COVID-19.

“He just turned down the vaccine,” Kevin said. “He refused to do it. Then he got sick.

Views along the promenade differed on whether messages that go against scientific and public health guidelines should be allowed for such public release.

“The 1st Amendment says people are allowed to be stupid as long as it doesn’t hurt others,” said Rudnick, the teacher. “But I would approve a decision to delete [the sign]because it misleads people and perpetuates a public health crisis. It hurts others.

But others said no harm would be done by allowing the restaurant owner to voice a dissenting opinion.

Jeffrey Reynoso

Jeffrey Reynoso is not vaccinated and supports the rights of a businessman to display the sign.

(James Rainey / Los Angeles Times)

“If anyone wants to put up a banner like this, I’m fine. If anyone wants a vaccine banner, that’s fine too, ”said Jeffrey Reynoso, 25, a Venice resident who said he had not been vaccinated. “Especially here in Venice, everyone is different. There is freedom of expression everywhere.

Roman did not respond to a message left at his Huntington Beach restaurant on Saturday. But in previous conversations with the media, he has presented himself as a crusader against government excesses.

An ad for the Venice Beach sign called its restaurant a “battleground for freedom.” The press release said he intended to spread his message to “enemy territory”.

“Tony remains defiant, opposing the vax mandates in defense of American freedom, as he has opposed them from day one,” the statement said, “… never allow masks in his restaurant, never never back down from legal and personal threats, always defend freedom, the Constitution and our indelible rights.

While the sign is unlikely to face a legal challenge because of its contents, LA officials said they are considering whether a floor painting would be allowed to stay, given that the owner has not obtained the required permit to make changes to a historic structure.

The Los Angeles City Council approved the building as a Historic and Cultural Landmark at 1305 Ocean Front Walk, just south of Westminster Avenue, in 2018. Known as the Potter Building, the apartment structure of 109 ans now has shops at street level. It’s wedged between a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop and a tattoo parlor and Peruvian restaurant.

The historical resources department of the town planning department must issue permits for wall paintings on listed historical monuments. Because he did not do so in this case, the restorer’s paint job will be returned to the Ministry of Building and Security, “who will initiate enforcement proceedings,” said a spokesperson for the office of the City Councilor Mike Bonin.

The owner of the building could not be reached on Saturday.

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