GUILFORD – The owners of the Red Maple Inn elected to reopen at the beginning of May, against Gov. Janet Mills’ orders, and now they feel they are being singled out by the state as they continue to operate.
Restaurants across the state have struggled with their temporary closure due to COVID-19. Some may not reopen, some will wait out the closure and some took inspiration from Rick Savage at the Sunday River Brew Pub and chose to reopen against Mills’ orders.
“There’s $3,000 dollars worth of food sitting in my cooler right now and now [Governor Mills] closed us again, so [Savage] explained to me just open,” said Red Maple Inn vice president Paul Zimmerman.
“I think people are starting to wake up that it’s not about the pandemic in Maine. It’s about the money and people are tired of it. People want to get back to work. They don’t want handouts, they want to get back to work,” said Savage.
The Red Maple Inn received six liquor license violations from the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, and two state health department complaints in the first three weeks in May after reopening for dine-in customers and seating them at tables on Zimmerman’s personal property next door to the restaurant.
“Third weekend, the state came and said I can’t have anyone on my property, my personal property, that I’ve got to stop so I picked up the tents and moved them all to the public parking lot,” said Zimmerman.
Restaurants in Piscataquis County were allowed to reopen on May 18, and the Red Maple Inn’s liquor license is now in good standing. However, since then, Zimmerman and partner Martha Ward said they have not been able to obtain a liquor license renewal or a state building permit for the planned addition to restaurant’s back deck.
“The fire marshal came here and ate last summer on this deck, but now I have to have a state permit to build this,” said Zimmerman.
Assistant fire marshal Richard McCarthy said Tuesday by phone that public places like the deck space fall under fire marshal jurisdiction and review is needed on construction projects that are open to the public, such as the deck addition at the Red Maple Inn. McCarthy could not comment on the specific status on Zimmerman’s permit.
According to Tim Poulin, deputy director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, liquor licenses that expired during the governor’s emergency declaration are valid thirty days after that declaration ends. The emergency declaration is currently schedule to end on June 11.
In spite of the current circumstances, Zimmerman reached out to State Senator Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, about his problems with building permits and liquor license renewal, issues David said he planned to bring up on a Senate caucus conference call scheduled for Tuesday.
“I haven’t taken any [action] yet, I’m on a conference call this afternoon, we’ll be bringing it up,” said Davis.