May 20, 2020
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Owner of Sunday River Brewing gets licenses back after defying coronavirus order

Charles Eichacker | BDN
Charles Eichacker | BDN
Rick Savage, the owner of Sunday River Brewing Co., addresses reporters outside of his restaurant on May 1, 2020. Dozens of people lined up outside after he appeared on Fox News to say he would open to dine-in customers in violation of a state order.

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The owner of Sunday River Brewing Co. has its operating licenses back and will open for business at 11 a.m. Wednesday, owner Rick Savage announced late Tuesday on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

A Superior Court justice last week ordered the restaurant not to reopen until its licenses had been restored. They were suspended earlier this month after Savage defied Gov. Janet Mills’ shutdown order to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

The Bethel restaurant is located in Oxford County, one of 12 rural counties where Mills has said restaurants and other nonessential businesses could reopen this week.

Also on Tuesday, Savage was added as a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed in Bangor that is seeking class-action status.

If granted, it means businesses all over the state could join the lawsuit to prevent the governor’s shutdown from being enforced.

The injunction to keep the business from operating illegally was sought by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal. It was issued Friday by Justice Thomas McKeon.

Savage has said he’d keep his restaurant open even if it means going to prison.

Despite Savage’s rhetoric, it’s unlikely anyone charged with violating the governor’s coronavirus orders would end up in prison. The misdemeanor crime is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

McKeon acknowledged that Savage would lose revenue from the shutdown, but said the ban on reopening the restaurant is justified by the safety risk it poses to the public by remaining open. The judge issued his ruling a week after Mills announced her rural reopening plan.

Savage told the Sun Journal that he’s not keeping the restaurant open because he wants to make money, but because he wants to stand up for other small businesses.

“I don’t have to do this,” he said. “We’re doing this for other people in the state of Maine.”

Watch: Why one woman came to Sunday River Brewing Co.

 


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