HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - The Henrico County Health Director says since June nearly 1,900 complaints have been received from community members regarding COVID-19 safety concerns in businesses and restaurants across the county.
These numbers were first reported by Henrico Citizen on Tuesday, and while the data may have slightly changed, Health Director Dr. Danny Avula said the complaints continue to pour in.
“They are primarily around mask-wearing, and the crowds,” Avula said. “Are restaurants not enforcing physical distancing between groups?”
On Oct. 9, the County Health District temporarily suspended the business licenses for two restaurants – The Beach House Bar and Grille located at 4040 Cox Road and Another Round Bar and Grill located at 7515 Brook Road.
Bob Iannacone, one of the owners at Another Round, said they have tried to follow those COVID-19 safety measures since they reopened after four months of being shut down due to the pandemic, but it has been hard.
“I had eight complaints,” Iannacone said. “Two of them were from [the health district], six were from call-ins. Anybody could call, my competitor, disgruntled employee, ex-employee.”
The owner said he was initially made aware of a complaint after they hosted a karaoke night in September.
“An agent came out and I brought him to the back room where we have the karaoke set up, explained what we did, how many people were in here roughly and he told me it was unsubstantiated,” Iannacone said.
Avula said the complaints are assessed and investigated with a specific process.
“We will follow up initially with a phone call, try to find out what their COVID plan looks like, let them know we’ve received complaints,” he said. “If the complaints continue, then we do an on-site visit.”
On Oct. 2, Iannacone said two armed Virginia ABC agents and two health inspectors dropped in.
“I don’t think they need to bring that many people in there,” he added. “It’s just to intimidate and scare the customers, employees, the owners.”
“That’s not our intent,” Avula said. “We have a long process of alerting and working with restaurant owners before we even get close to the suspension.”
Iannacone said they were advised of some issues during that inspection, which he said they fixed immediately that night, but were then were hit with the suspension a week later without another drop in.
“They’re attacking the restaurant business and they’re not going after any of the big box stores or anything like that, they’re just attacking us,” he added.
According to the Henrico County Health District, there have been several complaints against some chain stores located in the county.
Avula said the same notification process done with restaurants is done for these types of businesses.
“If the complaints continue, typically we’re talking about 15 plus complaints at one establishment, then we’ll issue what’s called a ‘notice of violation,’ which is just a formal next step saying ‘hey, we continue to receive complaints,’” Avula said.
Several “Notice of Violation” letters have been sent to the following stores:
- Lowe’s: 9490 W. Broad Street on 8/31 and 4401 Pouncey Tract Road on 8/25
- Home Depot: 6501 W. Broad Street on 8/25 and 11260 W. Broad Street on 9/29
- Cabela’s: 5000 Cabela Drive on 10/6
While Iannacone understands the measures in place, he feels he should not have to police his customers.
“Everybody is an adult,” he added. “Either you believe in the virus or don’t believe in the virus; you wear a mask or don’t wear a mask. It’s not my responsibility to babysit that person.”
“Yes, they are adults, but there are also a set of rules that they are expected to comply with when they walk into your establishment," Avula said. "It’s your responsibility to enforce that.”
Another Round was able to reopen on Oct. 13 while The Beach House reopened on Oct. 14.
Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.