In this May 1, 2020, file photo, Rick Savage, the owner of Sunday River Brewing Co., addresses reporters outside of his restaurant. Credit: Charles Eichacker / BDN

Sunday River Brewing Co. is “the most inspected restaurant” in the nation, a lawyer said for the business as he implored a judge to let the restaurant and brewery reopen.

That plea comes after Oxford County Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon last month found the Bethel brewery and restaurant in contempt of court for defying an order to remain closed for violating coronavirus health restrictions. He ordered the business to remain closed until Dec. 10.

Defense attorney Ted Dilworth on Wednesday asked McKeon to lift the restraining order shuttering Sunday River, offering to bar owner Rick Savage from the premises and let his brother, Ron, run the business, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal.

Dilworth complained that Sunday River was being targeted over Rick Savage’s public criticism of Gov. Janet Mills’ coronavirus restrictions, the newspaper reported. He said the restaurant has been in compliance since mid-October, with the exception of employees wearing masks improperly.

“They’re the most inspected restaurant, probably, in the United States,” Dilworth told the judge.

But Assistant Attorney General Andrew Black countered that undercover liquor inspectors found violations during each visit to Sunday River, a situation he called “concerning,” according to the Sun Journal.

Black asked the judge to revoke Sunday River’s liquor license, or at least suspend it for 90 days and impose a $25,000 fine, according to the newspaper. The license suspension would only affect the restaurant’s operation and allow the brewery to continue operating.

“This is a matter of life and death,” Black told McKeon.

Last month, McKeon ordered Sunday River Brewing to close for 30 days. That came after Sunday River Brewing flouted an October injunction restricting its operations until its licenses were reinstated after new violations of state coronavirus mandates, including not following the face covering order.

But Rick Savage promised to defy the Nov. 12 order, despite accruing $600 fines for each day Sunday River Brewing remained open.

Savage has been a vocal opponent of Gov. Janet Mills’ economic restrictions since the spring, even reading Mills’ cellphone number during an appearance on Fox News.

After continuing to operate despite having his licenses temporarily revoked, Sunday River Brewing was ordered to close in May, but Savage pledged to defy the order even if it meant going to jail.

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Machaiek told McKeon on Wednesday that Sunday River’s restaurant license has been suspended five times and that the business has operated 100 days during suspensions since the spring, the Sun Journal reported.

McKeon will make a decision by Friday.

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