PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pinellas County business owner is being deemed a criminal by some and a hero by others. “It’s a game,” said the Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “I guess he’s good at games, it’s his business but it doesn’t work that way [with the law]”.
The Sheriff’s arrested 36-year-old Galen Wood of St.Pete Thursday night for violating the safer-at-home order that’s in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Wood is the owner of “Kitchen Table Games” in Pinellas Park. Deputies said they checked the business out 5 times in the past 2 weeks and issued warnings. They say Wood argued and just wouldn’t listen. “He was defiant and flat out refused to cease operating,” said Sheriff Gualtieri.
8 On Your Side asked Wood how he felt when he was being arrested Thursday night. “I was just shocked and amused honestly,” Wood said he was protecting his freedom by following social distancing rules and keeping his curbside business open. The sheriff said the businesses was supposed to be fully shut down.
Deputies said several people complained the business was not following the safer-at-home rules. They said it’s not fair for his non-essential business to be open for curbside take-out when other non-essential businesses aren’t allowed to be either.
The Sheriff said he has sad that the situation came to this. “It’s taking away from other things I need to be doing. It’s extremely frustrating.” He went on to say “I tell you who it should be most frustrating for is the people doing the right thing.”
Wood told us Friday he still believes he was complying with the governor’s orders and he wasn’t going to let county administrators take away his rights. The sheriff told 8 On Your Side that’s simply not true, he was not complying with the governor’s order.
“As I said previously people would have to beg their way into jail. He begged and he got what he asked for,” said Sheriff Gualtieri.
While we were speaking with Wood on Friday, other small business owners in the community drove up to show their support for his actions. One couple made a sign for Wood that said, “Braveheart: True small business hero”.
“Hey brother, we support you. You’re a patriot!” said Leo Viggiano from his car window. He and his wife are small business owners in St.Pete who are currently shut down for the pandemic. They fully support Wood’s decisions to stay open. “I can hardly say it without choking up,” said Dawn Viggiano. “But to see you in that orange suit last night, it’s over the top.”
Wood became overwhelmed with emotion himself and with tears in his eyes thanked them for their support.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Gualtieri is not impressed. He said Wood’s actions are deemed criminal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic because he won’t comply with the law.
Wood is in the midst of talking to lawyers to figure out what his next right move is. He mentioned the idea of trying to open again in a few days.
“On principal I feel like I probably should,” said Wood.
The Sheriff said he’s not surprised by the defiance and he is ready to take action. “If he does it again he’s going back to jail. If we have to have someone between his business and the jail every 2 hours then that’s what we’re going to do. I’m not going to play this game with this guy,” said Sheriff Gualtieri.
Wood has been charged with operating a non-essential business and traveling to operate a non-essential business. Wood was released on a $500 bond Friday morning.