A man in Orange County blows up anti-wax message at Venice Beach

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

Strollers, cyclists and runners on the Ocean Front Walk expressed everything from sadness to disgust to pronounced disinterest in a giant sign along the famous seafront, suggesting that people should despise vaccines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Leave the Vax, Take the Cannoli” sounds like an expansive mural on the side of an apartment building, three storeys above street level in the heart of Venice’s bustling seafront promenade. The message comes from a restaurant in Huntington Beach whose owner has said he believes face masks and vaccine mandates are a tyrannical theft of public freedom.

Tony Roman has previously put up signs at his Basilico’s Pasta e Vino restaurant that say those wearing masks should remove them in order to be served. Last year, he paid for a billboard message on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, repeating his anti-mask vision.

“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 hit in the classic movie, a mob lieutenant asks a hired killer to “charge the gun, take the cannoli” when they leave a murder scene.)

Jenna Shults

Jenna Shults, an assistant at a talent agency, thinks it’s a bad idea to discourage people from getting a life-saving vaccine.

(James Rainey / Los Angeles Times)

Venice locals said they believed the Orange County restaurant owner was trying to get under the skin of people in the famous liberal and freewheeling beach town. Passers-by said Saturday that Roman instead betrays his ignorance, at best, and at worst, maintains anti-scientific views that endanger public health.

While Los Angeles city officials have not said anything about the contents of the sign, they claim it was painted without the required permits, given the building’s historic status. A pending enforcement case could mean the removal of the advertisement and fines.

“A cannoli will not save us,” said a disgusted tourist, named Barak, as he squinted up to the message. “Vaccines have helped save people across the country and help people get out of this COVID coma we’ve been in. And for someone, with all the evidence, still spending money on spreading disinformation – it just is not fantastic.” The New York resident declined to disclose his last name.

Dov Rudnick, a teacher

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

(James Rainey / Los Angeles Times)

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

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

Venice locals, Lisa Spencer and Jordan Williamson, had just finished a morning workout when the sign made them stop and stare at it.

“The vaccine is science. We all know that,” Spencer said. “The point is for all of us to do our part to get over this pandemic.”

Williamson said the unvaccinated population and the continued spread of the virus had affected him personally because doctors have 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 gets COVID. -19.

‘I saw when they sat [the sign] up and a guy was just happy. People do not take it seriously and it stinks, ”Williamson said. “It’s like two years ago I saw my mother.”

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

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

Views along the boardwalk differed as to whether messages flying in violation of science and public health guidelines should be allowed such a public broadcast.

“The 1st Amendment says people are allowed to be stupid as long as it does not harm other people,” said Rudnick, the teacher. “But I will approve a move to remove [the sign], because it misleads people and it perpetuates a public health crisis. It hurts other people. ”

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

Jeffrey Reynoso

Jeffrey Reynoso is unvaccinated and supports a businessman’s rights to put up the sign.

(James Rainey / Los Angeles Times)

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

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

An announcement about the Venice Beach sign called his restaurant a “freedom struggle.” The news release said he intended to spread his message to “enemy territory.”

“Tony remains defiant and opposes wax mandates in defense of American freedom, as he stood from day one,” the statement said, “… never allows masks in his restaurant, never steps in front of legal and personal threats, always defends freedom , the Constitution and our inalienable rights. “

While it is unlikely the sign will face a legal challenge based on its content, LA officials said they are reviewing whether the one-story high-rise painting will be allowed to remain, given that the property owner did not achieve a permit required to make changes to a historic structure.

The Los Angeles City Council approved the status of a historic-cultural monument for the building at 1305 Ocean Front Walk, just south of Westminster Avenue, in 2018. The 109-year-old apartment building, known as the Potter Building, now has street-level shops. It’s sandwiched between a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop and a tattoo parlor and a Peruvian restaurant.

The Town Planning Department’s Office of Historical Resources must issue permits for murals on designated historic monuments. Because it did not in this case, the restaurateur’s painting work will be referred to the Department of Building and Safety, “which will initiate an enforcement process,” said a spokesman for City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office.

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

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