Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack took to Facebook Tuesday to announce that his office “will not take any law enforcement action” against businesses or on religious institutions that “are wanting to meet and wanting to get back to business,” regardless of Gov. Kay Ivey’s most recent health order.
Last week, Ivey reopened retail businesses subject to 50 percent capacity restrictions, but ordered “close contact services” including restaurants, salons, gyms, tattoo parlors and barbershops, among others, to remain closed or partially closed until at least May 14.
Reporting that “things went very well” after the county reopened government offices Monday and expressing confidence “in the people of Baldwin County and the people of Alabama … that they have taken this issue seriously,” Mack said he wrote a letter to Ivey yesterday stating “it’s time to modify the order and it’s time to lift the order on our businesses, it’s time to lift the order on our religious institutions and allow everybody to get back to meeting, and get back to business.”
Mack said he made the decision after “prayerful consideration” and consultation with “a lot of people in the community,” but also with his deputy sheriffs and “other law enforcement.”
With the announcement, Mack joins sheriffs in Lamar County, Blount County and Marshall County who have also said they would not enforce the order. Still, Mack indicated the office would not ignore the order entirely.
“If they are in violation of the governor’s order, we will notify them that the governor’s order is still in place because there are other institutions out there that are a part of this,” he said, noting the Alabama Department of Public Health and “many regulatory agencies outside of the sheriff’s office” can choose to enforce the order.
Last week, the ADPH did temporarily shutter Trattoria restaurant in Spanish Fort, after the owners indicated they would defy the governor’s order and allow patrons to dine on the facility’s porch. The restaurant was allowed to reopen after agreeing to provide take-out and delivery only. Enforcement actions may include fines, restraining orders, or the loss of business, professional or liquor licenses.
“To deny an order is just to deny it,” he said. “But what we really need to do is we need to ask the governor to change the order. We need to ask her to lift this order and allow Alabamians to get back to work. And to get back to collective worship. I think that’s going to make the biggest difference as we go through this together.”
Mack later emphasized his letter intended to encourage the governor to reopen the businesses and gatherings “with restrictions.”
The Baldwin County Commission did not address the development at its meeting this morning, with Commissioner Jeb Ball reporting “we are working as hard as we can to make sure that everybody will one day get open back up.” Commission Chairman Billie Jo Underwood said restaurants, salons and gyms should “start preparing” to reopen.
“I don’t know what’s going to come down — you guys know it’s not our decision — but if you’re allowed to do 25 percent, 50 percent or whatever, if you don’t have your plan in place you’re going to be behind,” Underwood said.
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