Anton Van Happen is a California businessman and entrepreneur who is the owner of the Nick the Greek restaurant in Ventura. A video of him confronting health officials over COVID-19 restrictions went viral on social media on December 14.
The video was posted by Ventura Report and has racked up more than 1.5 million views. The reporter was at the restaurant chain franchise for an interview with Van Happen when officials from the Ventura County Public Health Department showed up, according to tweets from Ventura Report. The public health officials presented Van Happen with a citation for violating an order directing him to immediately cease all business activities at the East Main Street business because of violations of coronavirus restrictions.
According to a photo of the closure order posted by Ventura Report, Van Happen was told to shut down his business on December 11 because it posed a “serious threat to public health and safety in light of the COVID-19 State of California and local emergency and that the business is not an essential business in this pandemic.” The order requires Nick the Greek to be shut down until it is rescinded by the public health department or until the state’s stay at home order is repealed.
The public health inspectors went to Van Happen’s business on December 14 and observed that he was still open and selling food, according to a citation posted by Ventura Report. Van Happen was cited for operating without a valid permit, but told the inspectors he planned to continue violating the shutdown order, according to the citation report.
Here’s what you need to know about Anton Van Happen and the video of his showdown with health officials at Nick the Greek restaurant in Ventura, California:
1. Van Happen Asked the Health Officials ‘Are You Going to Pay My Rent?’ After He Was Issued a Citation by the Public Health Inspectors, the Viral Video Shows
In the viral video, Van Happen can be seen yelling at the Ventura County public health inspectors, “I followed the rules, I continue to follow the rules and you guys still time after time are giving me citations, telling me I have to close my business, what about my employees?” When one of the inspectors tells him, “you’re not following the rules,” he responds, “I am following the rules. My tables are inside. Just because the health department has a whole process to go through that takes however long it takes, I have to close my business.” He then asks them, “are you going to pay my rent?”
The health inspector then says he chose to make the decision that led to the closure. “I chose to protest by putting my tables outside,” Van Happen replies. “I never served one single person outside. I did all takeout food and delivery, exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I did not break any rule.”
The health inspector said he was breaking the law by operating without a permit. Other video showed more of the interaction.
In an earlier interview with Ventura Report, Van Happen said, “They shut down outdoor dining because the ICUs were getting busier and more people were going to the hospitals. Ever since outdoor dining has closed has that slowed down? No. There’s still a ton of people get COVID and there’s still a ton of people in the hospitals. Why? Because retail stores are still open, everything is still open. … It’s unfair to us restaurant owners. We’re getting dinged for whatever reason.”
Van Happen told KEYT on December 11, “I am trying to start something where all restaurant owners are going to wake up. My calling is to all the other restaurant owners to open your restaurants. If we all open up they can’t do anything.”
2. Van Happen, Who Is Also the CEO of Eco Green Auto Clean, Opened the Ventura Nick the Greek Franchise in May Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
Van Happen opened the Ventura Nick the Greek franchise in May despite the pandemic. The California-based restaurant chain was founded in 2014 by three cousins named Nick and has 12 locations around the state, according to the Ventura County Star. The company’s founders could not be reached for comment about Van Happen.
“We signed our lease knowing that the coronavirus was starting and happening, but before we knew about the stay-at-home guidelines, Van Happen told the newspaper in May after the restaurant opened. “We continued construction because our food is not expensive and everyone still needs to eat. Now we’re focusing on building our reputation in the community.”
“Anton Van Happen, founder of Eco Green Auto Clean, came up with the virtually waterless car wash, as a practical solution to a monumental problem. California is in the midst of a 100-year drought. Some cities have water restrictions, while the writing is on the wall for statewide limitations,” according to a website touting his company’s partnership with Tesla. “So far, business on weekends has tripled since opening in 2012. Consumers are worried about the drought and are being proactive to save water any way they can. If the state-wide restriction is implemented, then the business can grow exponentially. The business started as a stand-alone car wash in Redwood City, California. The basic premise: use environmentally-friendly products and, as little water as possible, to wash each car. There are many of us that think they can come up with ideas as practical and life-changing.”
Before starting his own business, Van Happen was a retail store director at Villa Happ in the Netherlands and a store manager at Abercrombie & Fitch in California. He also spent time as vice president of sales and business for a dental supply company, according to his LinkedIn.
3. Van Happen Was Born in Hong Kong & Is a Graduate of Menlo College
Van Happen was born in Hong Kong to Dutch-Filipino parents, according to the Ventura County Star. He graduated from Menlo College in 2008 with a degree in business management, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was a member of the soccer team at the college. Van Happen is also a graduate of the Antwerp International School.
He told FiveHundredStories.com in 2016, “I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. We were some of the first people to move to Hong Kong in the 1950s and 60s, to start manufacturing clothing, for U.S. and European brands. I was always around business, ever since I can remember. Once I was old enough to start doing business, I did not really think of anything other than starting my own companies and growing them.”
According to What Now Los Angeles, Van Happen is planning to open more Nick the Greek franchise locations, including in Thousand Oaks and Santa Monica. He told What Now Los Angeles in October 2020, “Come next year we’ll have a better idea of where to put the other locations.”
Van Happen is also the owner of A Touch of Las Vegas Spa in Nevada, according to its Facebook page.
4. Van Happen Said on Facebook People Are ‘Naive Enough to Believe the Media’ About COVID-19 & Called Uber Eats ‘So Racist’ for Its Efforts to Boost Black-Owned Businesses
In November, Van Happen shared a screenshot of a tweet from Elon Musk about COVID-19 that reads, Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD.”
Van Happen added above the screenshot, “For those of you that are still naive enough to believe the media.”
Van Happen also posted on Facebook in November criticizing Uber Eats for a program the company launched to help support Black-owned businesses. Van Happen wrote, “Lawsuit waiting to happen for Uber. So racist.”
In April, he shared a video from Tucker Carlson arguing that the media and the country’s leaders are addicted to doom and gloom. Van Happen addd in his post, “Facts! Numbers don’t lie.”
5. Van Happen Has Received Support From Around the Country, Along With Some Backlash on Social Media, After His Outburst Went Viral
Van Happen has received some criticism on social media, but has also been given support from around the country, including in the form of orders and tips to help his business and employees. In a video posted by Ventura Report, Van Happen took a call from someone in Alaska who ordered $100 worth of food to giveaway and also added a $100 tip.
He has also received support from the Trump family. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted the video and said, “e need more of this or the politicians will never ever stop their economy destroying power-grab. Lockdowns aren’t based in science. The politicians & media hacks still supporting them are actively destroying lives, but they don’t care because their paychecks aren’t on the line.”
Ivanka Trump tweeted, “These blanket lockdowns are not grounded in science. These arbitrary rules imposed by callous politicians are destroying lives. It is just wrong for small business owners to have fight so hard to keep their American dream alive.”
Others pushed back on the idea he should be allowed to be open. One Twitter user said, “I feel this man’s pain. But I also trust science. There are rules ‘at this time.’ I can’t imagine owning a business right now. If the damn gov’t was doing its job and supplementing these businesses things could be different. Shame on our government. Shame on trumfs government.”
Another Twitter user added, “He shouldn’t open but he shouldn’t pay rent either. Banks shouldn’t charge interest on loans. And the govt should cover maintenance and payroll costs of landlords and the restaurant. Time for banks to suck it up.”