A Baldwin County eatery that allowed patrons to dine in an outside seating area was shut down entirely by the Alabama Department of Public Health Friday for violating a state health order Gov. Kay Ivey issued earlier this week in response to COVID-19.
As Lagniappe reported, the “Safer at Home” order Ivey announced April 28 allowed retail businesses across the state and waterfront beaches to reopen Thursday afternoon. However, it did not lift previous limitations preventing close-contact services like barbershops from opening, or remove restrictions limiting restaurants to curbside dining.
The continued restrictions were a blow for local restaurants limited to curbside and delivery services since mid-March. Earlier this week, the owners of several Baldwin County restaurants — including the owners of Trattoria Pizza and Italian — said they were considering taking legal action against the state over restrictions that have “devastated” their businesses.
Some also said they were considering resuming dine-in service in defiance of Ivey’s order as other businesses reopened today.
According to Andrew Gilmore, general manager at Trattoria, the restaurant didn’t actually fully open up to customers, but staff was allowing patrons to eat to-go orders in an outdoor seating area. He said all of their food and drinks were sold to go, but the customers themselves chose to stay there to eat.
About an hour after the restaurant opened, an ADPH inspector showed up and closed the entire operation.
“We were still going, and then around noon, we had a woman come in from the [state] health department and tell us we were not in compliance with the “safer at home” initiative and we had to close down,” Gilmore said. “We walked through everything with her to show her what we were doing to try to be safe and stay in compliance, but we received a citation and then were shut down.”
According to Gilmore, the citation said Trattoria would be able to reopen once it was “shown to be in compliance” with Ivey’s “Safer at Home” order, but it didn’t offer a timeline. A representative of the store later told a reporter Trattoria would be allowed to resume normal curbside service at 4 p.m. Friday.
Yesterday, Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack issued a statement saying his officers would be stepping up beach patrols to make sure social distancing requirements also included in the “safer at home” order were being followed. However, his statement gave the impression that officers wouldn’t be directly enforcing the limitations on restaurants.
“Any violations will be documented, investigated and referred to the appropriate legal, licensing and regulatory agencies,” Mack said in the statement.
Unlike Mobile County, which has a standalone health department, the Baldwin County Health Department that licenses and inspects restaurants operates under ADPH.
Ron Dawsey, deputy director of ADPH bureau of environmental services, told Lagniappe restaurants operating in violation of a state health order are shut down through a supplemental emergency order and remain closed until a written compliance plan is approved by the county department.
He said enforcement actions against restaurants are handled by ADPH because they are already regulated by the agency. If businesses not regulated by ADPH are found to be operating in violation of a state health order, it would be up to local law enforcement.
Gabriel Tynes contributed to this report.
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