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An Oxford County restaurant owner who read Gov. Janet Mills’ cellphone number during a Fox News appearance and once hired the governor as a defense attorney plans to open to dine-in customers on Friday in defiance of a state order aimed at slowing the coronavirus.
Rick Savage, who owns Sunday River Brewing Co. in Newry, was interviewed by conservative host Tucker Carlson on Thursday night. He hammered a plan from the Democratic governor that was released Tuesday to allow certain businesses to reopen on Friday while leaving restaurants closed to dine-in customers until June.
The restaurant’s Facebook page said before Savage’s TV appearance that it would be open for takeout only, but it issued an update saying it would open to dine-in customers on Friday with a limited number of seats open.
Savage challenged the state to act against him on Fox News, saying he has “one of the cleanest restaurants in the state of Maine.”
“If they do take me to court, I’ll save my tax money that I collect this month and I’ll use that to fund a lawyer,” he said.
Later, Savage read Mills’ private cellphone number on the air. He said the governor was “over her head.” He hired Mills as a defense attorney when he was charged in connection with threatening the Bethel town manager in 2012. Those charges were later dismissed. Savage also brawled with a town official at a diner in 2009, according to the Sun Journal.
Mills’ order banning dine-in restaurant service has been in effect since March 18, though restaurants have been able to serve delivery and take-out customers since then.
Violations of orders under Mills’ emergency power are punishable as a misdemeanor crime, though that has been rarely enforced. Oxford County Sheriff Chris Wainwright did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tim Poulin, the deputy director of Maine’s liquor regulator, said if Savage opens, his business could be cited for a violation of rules governing his liquor license that prohibit improper conduct or illegality.
The hospitality industry has been among the most affected industries during the coronavirus-induced economic shutdown. Many restaurants and hotels have railed against the governor’s order this week limiting restaurants and lodging into the summer, particularly over a 14-day quarantine requirement that would apply to travelers who typically make shorter trips.
Mills, however, has gotten high polling marks for the state’s response to the virus, with 72 percent of Mainers saying they somewhat or strongly approve of her handling of the outbreak in a national survey released this week by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard and Rutgers universities.