A Pat’s Pizza in Dover-Foxcroft where staff didn’t wear face coverings or do contact tracing is among the 65 Maine businesses cited for violating COVID-19 rules.
A review of state data by the Portland Press Herald found that nearly a dozen “imminent health hazard” citations were issued to Maine businesses in the first two weeks of December, including the Piscataquis County pizzeria.
Additionally, 40 businesses have been cited since the beginning of October, including the Sunday River Brewing Co. in Bethel, which recently lost its bid to get its restaurant license back after repeatedly violating pandemic restrictions.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has issued the citations to restaurants and other eateries, with the most common violation a failure to require face masks for staff and customers.
The Press Herald found that at least two establishments have been awarded grants worth thousands of dollars from the state, for which they should not have been eligible because of their health violations.
River Lanes, a bowling alley in Bethel, is among those, according to the Press Herald. The business was issued an imminent health hazard citation in August because staff and customers were not wearing masks, and its operating license was suspended in November for another violation.
It was awarded more than $40,000 from the second round of Maine Economic Recovery Grants in November, even though in order to receive funds, businesses had to be in consistent compliance and not subject to any enforcement action with COVID-19 requirements.
“Basically, I don’t agree with the restrictions,” Adrienne Goodwin, the owner of River Lanes, told the Press Herald. “I have no customers, because no one wants to bowl with these restrictions.”
She told the Press Herald it is unfair her business is treated the same as those in places such as Portland, where there are more COVID-19 cases. According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Oxford County has the fourth-highest rate of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents.
“I think after 10 months of this stuff, they need to start looking by county and by business, because we can’t survive this anymore,” Goodwin said.
One of the requirements to qualify for a Maine Economy Recovery Grant is that the applicant must be in consistent compliance and not subject to any enforcement action with COVID-19 Prevention Checklist requirements.
“This was an error,” Kate Foye, communications director for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, told the Press Herald. “We have notified the business and will work with them through the process.”
Pat’s Pizza in Dover-Foxcroft also was approved for a $36,000 loan reserved for hospitality businesses. But after being cited for staff masking, signage and contract tracing violations in November, it will not receive the grant, Foye told the Press Herald.
Bob Ade, owner of the restaurant, told the Press Herald his staff collected contact tracing information for months, but gave up when customers — largely regulars known by everyone there — began to give fake names such as Mickey Mouse and Joe Biden instead.
“I feel like everything I’ve tried to work for in my life is slowly being chipped away and taken away from me,” Ade told the Press Herald. “My business is down 62 percent from last year — we are trying to comply the best we can. I’m concerned about my business. I want to do what’s right.”