RICHMOND (August 17, 2020)—Attorney General Mark R. Herring today filed a request for an injunction to ensure compliance with Virginia’s COVID safety measures and to ensure the safety of employees and patrons at a Hanover restaurant that has operated without a license for the last three weeks.
The lawsuit seeking a temporary injunction was filed on behalf of the State Board of Health and Virginia Health Commissioner Norman Oliver against Calabash Seafood and its owners after the restaurant failed numerous safety inspections, refused to comply with COVID safety requirements, and has continued to operate even though its license has been suspended.
“We all have a part to play in slowing the spread of COVID, and for restaurant and other business owners, that means following the safety guidelines that will help keep their employees and patrons safe and healthy,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Compliance with social distancing, mask requirements, and other safety measures will ultimately help us get through this pandemic faster and make it more likely that restaurants and other businesses can stay open for the long term.”
According to the complaint, the local Health Department has received dozens of complaints about Calabash Seafood, including that it was allegedly allowing indoor dining before it was permitted. Even after indoor dining has been permitted, the restaurant has been operating with little to no mask usage by employees or patrons, allowed bar seating and dance floors, and has made little to no effort to comply with social distancing requirements.
The complaint explains that the manager of the restaurant did not take the threat of COVID seriously, saying that the “health department could not tell him what to do,” that “the servers did not need to wear face coverings,” and that he “did not see the need for face coverings, claiming that COVID-19 was pretty much over.” Instead of taking steps to protect older, high risk patrons, the manager explained that “elderly people should stay home,” according to the complaint.
On July 27, the restaurant’s license was suspended after multiple inspections by the local health department “revealed substantial and imminent threats to public health.” The restaurant continued to operate, then received a second notice of license suspension on August 13, yet the restaurant has continued to operate without a license and without complying with COVID safety measures.
The motion for temporary injunction asks the court for an order that will close the restaurant, which has been operating for three weeks without a license, unless and until its license is restored.
Relevant documents are available below:
Attorney General Herring and his team have worked nonstop during the COVID pandemic to protect Virginians and help them get through this crisis. He has won 13 decisions defending Virginia’s COVID mitigation efforts, including two lawsuits that directly challenged Virginia’s mask requirement. He also successfully petitioned for the first suspension of utility cutoffs, has fought price gouging, warned Virginians of COVID scams, raised awareness of health insurance options for Virginians who have lost their jobs, and urged the Trump Administration to step up its response by coordinating production of PPE and ventilators, initiating a Healthcare.Gov special enrollment period, protecting food assistance, and remaining committed to important air quality standards during a respiratory disease pandemic.