Themi Sacarellos, owner of Pennsylvania’s Round the Clock Diner, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Friday that Gov. Tom Wolf (D) must “put the politics aside and let the people work.”
Round the Clock Diner made waves this week after the owner reopened the restaurant’s locations in Manchester and Springettsbury for dine-in services, in contravention to the governor’s stay-at-home order.
The restaurants are located in Pennsylvania’s York County, which is one of 12 counties that can begin reopening next week, May 22, Wolf announced on Friday. However, like the red phase, the yellow phase of reopening does not allow restaurants to operate dine-in services. Despite that, Sacarellos is charging ahead.
Sacarellos, 80, said he attended a meeting and decided to charge forward and open his restaurant on Mother’s Day for dine-in services. He thought others would follow his lead, but they never did.
“But I’m still standing, and I think I just follow what’s right,” Sacarellos, who has been in the business for 52 years, told Breitbart News’s Matthew Perdie, who visited the diner on Friday.
Sacarellos said they are keeping the restaurant “very clean” and taking safety protocols, like seating patrons at every other table.
“We’re in a hospital here,” he joked.
“We try to operate normal. We’re not trying to hurt anybody,” he said, noting that employees wash their hands and wear gloves and masks.
A lot of people are coming into the restaurant, he explained. He said every customer that comes in is grateful, thanking him for reopening.
“‘Thank you or opening. Thank you for opening. We’re not going to be a prisoner anymore. We’re not going to be a prisoner anymore,'” he said, quoting his patrons. “Only in communist countries do they do that.”
He added that businesses need a green light from the governor to proceed and said he wished others would follow his path.
“I paved the way, and they didn’t follow that. So I hope everyone can open up,” he said, noting that Pennsylvania is not moving as swiftly as other states and wondering if state officials are trying to save lives or play politics.
“That goes through my mind,” he said, urging Wolf to “let the people open up. Operate. Forget the politics.”
“I didn’t back down. I’m still operating and will continue,” he said.
“We’re not opening just because we need the money. We didn’t change the prices for 11 and half years. … So we’re not looking for money. We’re looking for money to pay the bills and support our families and that’s it,” he said, explaining that customers have tried to provide him with additional support.
Everyone says thank you, he said, even offering, in some cases,”$50 dollars, $100 dollars.”
“I said I don’t need money. Just pay for your meals. That’s all I need. That’s all I want you to do so I can pay my people,” he said.
Sacarellos pays his employees $14 an hour, noting that it helps them support their families and encourages them to “come in and work.”
“Put the politics aside and let the people work, because the country is turning into more like a communist system here,” he warned, “and I know better than a communist system. I lived in those days.”
Sacarellos immigrated from Greece and briefly touched on the brutality he witnessed growing up, at the hands of communism.
“I have seen in my life a lot. The American people don’t even know,” he said, explaining that “Russia took over” and adding that it was “coming down.”
They came to Greece, he said, but Americans jumped in and “helped us out, and Russia didn’t take over Greece.”
“A lot of American people don’t know that. I do. I lived those days. I was there,” he said, recalling the brutality.
As for President Trump, the restaurant owner said he is doing an excellent job and warned that the U.S. would be in “bad shape” if the previous administration were in charge.
At the end of the day, Sacarellos said, the governor should allow Pennsylvanians to work.
“Thanks for being open,” two patrons said as he wrapped up the interview.