VDH and Attorney General weighing legal options over Mechanicsville restaurant defiance

Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 2:50 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Attorney General is now getting involved in how to handle a Mechanicsville restaurant that is operating illegally.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) pulled its permit for Calabash Seafood due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

“We’re charged with protecting the public’s health and COVID-19 is a threat to the public’s health,” said Tom Franck, Chickahominy Health District Director.

The Hanover Health Department, which falls in the Chickahominy Health District has received two dozen complaints since May over COVID-19 safety issues at the Seafood restaurant on Lee Davis Road.

Investigators say they warned Dennis Smith, but the violations continued, so they suspended the restaurant’s permit. But the place is still open.

“We continued to go out and inspect and we continued to observe just violations of the executive order with regards to social distancing, people not maintaining (the) six-foot distance between each other,” said Franck. “People not wearing face coverings when passing each other and face to face with each other.”

The attorney general’s office tells NBC12 its working with VDH to determine appropriate next steps. Those options include criminal charges or a court injunction to shut down Calabash Seafood.

“We’re not intentionally going out and trying to shut down businesses and restaurants,” said Franck. “That’s the last thing that we want to do is to cause a business or restaurant to cease operations because we realize how important that is to the community and to the economy.”

The Hanover Health Department has received hundreds of complaints about other restaurants and businesses too. It’s a hefty workload, says the health district director.

“Since we’ve been given the orders to be the enforcers of these executive orders and violations of the executive orders, that has added a whole other of responsibility to my team of environmental health specialists,” said Franck.

NBC12 did reach out to the owner of Calabash Seafood. His wife says they have a lawyer and aren’t commenting right now.

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