BETHEL (WGME) – A restaurant in western Maine opened for dine-in customers Friday, defying the governor’s order and the risk of coronavirus.
Sunday River Brewing Company owner Rick Savage said Friday evening that the state has now pulled his restaurant license, which in turn suspends his liquor license.
A message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page around 7:45 p.m. Friday read “We will be closed until further notice as of Friday May 1st.”
Savage, who owns the Bethel business, announced on Fox News Channel Thursday night that he would defy the order, and open Friday at 4 p.m.
Lines started to form, and he actually opened early, around noon.
The owner said he was trying to keep six-foot spacing between customers, he’s only allowing 48 people inside at a time, and he’s only serving food, not alcoholic beverages.
But many of the people in line were clearly not standing six feet apart and not wearing masks, defying the new order in effect requiring people in Maine to wear face coverings if social distancing isn’t possible.
One reason Savage believes it is safe to open now is Oxford County has only had 15 cases of COVID-19 and 12 of them have recovered.
“I’m thinking it’s not just me. It’s everybody. We needed to get back open,” Savage said. “People need to open up and make a living. For the state to dictate what they’re doing, we just don’t live like that in the state of Maine.”
“I know there are a lot of people that are really hurting right now. A lot of people are really suffering from being forced to be out of work. And we just want to go back to work,” said Lisa from Lewiston.
“I’m here to support the reopening of our state and this restaurant, for them standing up for the rights of the rest of us folks so that we can all get back to work and make our own money,” patron Marty McFarlin said.
Under the governor’s plan, restaurants aren’t allowed to reopen to dine-in customers until June 1 at the earliest.
Governor Mills had no response to the brewpub opening.
But Friday, Mills said these are the hardest decisions any governor has has to make, but public health must be the first priority.
Savage is encouraging other restaurant owners to defy the governor’s order and open now instead of waiting until June.