Special to the Village News
When NFL players took a knee during the National anthem in 2016, a tradition was born at Rainbow Oaks Restaurant.
Owners Duke and Jonell Maples, who remodeled and reopened the restaurant in 2009, decided to start playing the National anthem at noon, seven days a week.
"It was my way of waving my middle finger at the NFL," said the retired Marine. The restaurant is filled with patriotic memorabilia and American flags. A Marine Corps flag flies under the American flag atop the restaurant and inside, it's obvious the clientele has support for and by the military and law enforcement. The restaurant, located on the west side of I-15, is also frequented by bikers, especially on weekends.
The Maples sold the restaurant (but not the land) to Jeanene Paulino in December. Interviewed at the cashier's stand last week, the new owner said she plans to continue all the same patriotic activities, including the national anthem.
The restaurant has been in national headlines and social media the past couple of weeks after a woman visited the restaurant and declared on TikTok that the restaurant's activity was "the most dangerous situation I've ever been in."
"Our country is in sad shape if the national anthem is anything but something to be proud about," Duke Maples countered at the restaurant last week just before the National anthem was played.
Paulino, the new owner, said she was the real estate broker who listed the business for sale before buying it herself in December. "It was difficult to find a buyer with the same heart as Duke and Jonell," she said. "I stand with what they've established here, and it mirrors my feelings."
The Maples agreed to stay and help with the restaurant operation for a year as Paulino learns the business. "I don't have time for real estate now," she noted.
There's been a steady increase in business from people supporting the patriotic restaurant. Patrons sang along during the national anthem last week and many cheered and clapped at the conclusion.
After 15 years owning the business, Duke Maples said he doesn't have any other plans. "I love it here and don't plan on going anywhere else," he said.
The couple put their lives into the restaurant, from rebuilding the original restaurant established in 1946, to many, many long days of serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The restaurant is known for its large servings and for defying county orders and remaining open during Covid. "We were 'rocking' and proud of it," said Jonell Maples.
The most descriptive word for the restaurant's motif is "woodsy." The walls are made of timber hauled away from slopes charred by the Rice and Poomacha fires. The bar is a beautiful slab of local cedar.
Interviewing patrons at three of the tables last week, it was evident people were there to support the business.
Bill and Cheryl Luedke from Temecula said they come often, especially Sundays after church if they can arrive in time for the national anthem.
"We saw it on MSN News, then Fox, and wanted to come with a friend today," Cheryl said.
Jason and Amanda Beeman of Perris said they have been to the restaurant about three times. They knew it was a patriotic establishment, but a year ago came for lunch and were surprised – pleasantly – when the music started, and everyone stood.
"We saw the opposition on TikTok and just felt it was the right thing to come to show support," Jason Beeman said.
At a larger table in the back were seven friends who live in Fallbrook, Escondido, Vista and La Mirada. They explained that they get together for breakfast or lunch 2-3 times a month at various locations in San Diego County. They had visited Rainbow Café in the past, but Nancy Watt of Fallbrook said that when she saw the report on TV, she suggested a return trip. Like everyone in the restaurant, they each stood and proudly sang. For fun, they call the group OPC, "old people club."
Paulino said she has been encouraged by the show of support.
"There have been a very few people who have been nasty, but it doesn't bother me. I really don't care," she said. "This is all about respect for freedom and the men and women who should be recognized, our law enforcement and military heroes."