A restaurant owner in Maryland is demanding answers after his establishment was raided and he now faces jail time and thousands in fines for serving takeout to a crowd of customers on Sunday.
According to the Cecil Whig, 15 uniformed officers from four different law enforcement agencies responded to Lee’s Landing Dock Bar in Port Deposit where a crowd had allegedly assembled to eat and drink outside the restaurant.
Charles Harry Craven Jr., the owner of the popular waterfront restaurant, told the Whig he is looking at over a year in jail and more than $5,000 in fines if he is convicted of allegedly violating Governor Larry Hogan’s social distancing and crowd size orders.
Managing owner Dave Carey, however, told the paper that each of the roughly 70 people waiting for their orders Sunday were following social distancing guidelines “to the letter of the law.”
He wants to know why his restaurant was targeted by a swarm of police.
“What exactly did we do wrong?” Carey asked, according to the Whig.
“And who had the authority to take that many resources off the road?” Carey added, referring to the gaggle of officers from Maryland State Police, Cecil County Sheriff’s Deputies, Maryland Transportation Authority, and the Perryville police.
“Responding troopers estimated the crowd upon their arrival to be about 70 people who were on the ‘boardwalk’ portion of the business. Individuals were seen eating and drinking,” Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley told the paper.
“The investigation indicated the restaurant was selling ‘to go’ food and drink orders, but some of that food and drink was being consumed on the premises,” Shipley said. “The crowd dispersed and those who remained were determined to be waiting for carryout orders.”
“Apparently they thought it was OK to serve drinks at the bar and the dock bar while people waited for their orders,” Sgt. S. Spayd said on Sunday, alleging that more than 70 motorcycles were counted in the restaurant’s parking lot.
Carey’s version of the incident, however, tells another story. According to the Whig, Carey says no more than 10 motorcycles were parked on the premises at the time and that customers awaited their orders while practicing social distancing and left when they got their food.
“It’s hard enough to get two cops at any other time,” Carey told the paper, adding that he was shocked at such a huge police presence.
“If I called for a riot I wouldn’t get that kind of response.”
Carey also noted that police arrived to find his staff wearing gloves and masks while serving customers who maintained recommended distances while waiting for their food, which was handed to them in sealed plastic bags.
According to the police, patrons were lingering in the parking lot well after having received their orders.
“We were at Lee’s Landing a week ago and we gave them a warning,” Spayd said.
Carey disagreed, saying that Lee’s Landing was not even open the Sunday before, which was Easter.
From Carey’s point of view, he is being punished simply for trying to keep his staff employed during the pandemic.
“To raid a local carry out that is doing everything by the book,” Carey asked, “is this what the governor wants?”
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