Maine Governor Janet Mills’ administration revokes Sunday River Brewing Co. license; owner defies coronavirus restriction order

(NEWS CENTER Maine) Published: 6:53 PM EDT May 1, 2020

Updated: 6:53 PM EDT May 1, 2020

BETHEL, Maine — Rick Savage, the owner of Sunday River Brewing Co. in Bethel, kept his word and opened his doors to the public on Friday, defying Gov. Janet Mills’ Executive Order during the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic

According to Savage, health and liquor license inspectors were on scene Friday and revoked both of the restaurant’s licenses. Despite this, Savage says he will continue to operate.

Oxford County Sheriff’s Cheif Deputy James Urquhart told NEWS CENTER Maine several agencies are also monitoring the situation, as well as surrounding areas that may try to mimic what’s being attempted in Bethel.

Savage went on Fox News Thursday night, telling the nation he planned to go against the Governor’s orders and open to dine-in customers on Friday. Hundreds showed up in support. 

Maine entered the first stage of Mills’ phased approach to reopen the state’s economy on Friday. Restaurants are part of stage two, with a tentative reopening date of June 1. 

“I’ve got a restaurant that seats 250 people inside, a deck that seats a hundred, a 2200 square foot patio, so I could put people at six-foot spacing everywhere and get open back up for business,” Savage said.

Virus Outbreak Maine

A crowd waits to get into Sunday River Brewing Company, Friday, May 1, 2020, in Newry, Maine. Rick Savage, owner of the brew pub, defied an executive order that prohibited the gathering of 10 or more people and opened his establishment during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)APHannah Dineen@hannah_dineen

The line outside Sunday River Brewing Co. has doubled in the last hour. Folks in line tell me this is much more than a lunch rush, it’s a protest. Restaurant owner Rick Savage tells me he’s not worried about being arrested. @newscentermaine

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The Oxford County Sheriff’s Office released a statement in response to the situation Friday in Bethel. 

“As Sheriff, I swore an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of our citizens, as well as enforce the law,” Sheriff Christopher Wainwright said in the statement.

Wainwright wrote, “As in any situation where there is a potential or alleged violation of law, which includes violations of the Executive Orders, for which law enforcement is obligated to enforce, we will investigate reports of violations and take the appropriate action indicated by our investigative findings or refer the complaint to the appropriate state or local administrative licensing agency.”

Under Phase 1 of the Governor’s plan, health care from Maine-licensed providers, personal services like barbershops and hair salons, drive-in services, and outdoor recreation are some of the businesses that are able to reopen beginning Friday. They must meet state-mandated safety precautions.

Some Mainers have been frustrated and confused about some of Mills’ orders. Last week, more than 300 protesters rallied behind the message that the state government should reopen Maine. Another protest outside the Augusta State House and Governor’s residence at the Blaine House is planned for Saturday. 

On Friday, Mills address some of their frustrations in a statement during the Maine CDC’s daily coronavirus briefing.