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Freeport restaurant owner gets license suspended after opening for indoor dining

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Dominic Petrillo, owner of Petrillo’s restaurant in Freeport, got his license temporarily suspended on Monday for serving customers indoors despite state-mandated restrictions. 

Petrillo admitted that he had been offering dine-in services since June 4th, though the restaurant only advertised tableside patio service upon reopening. 

“Yes it is true. I have been serving our guests indoors that are comfortable doing so…Yes, I realize I am violating what I believe to be an UNJUST Executive Order,” Petrillo said in a widely-shared Facebook post Tuesday. 

Under Governor Mills’ current reopening plan, restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties are only permitted to serve customers outdoors. Meanwhile, restaurants in Maine’s other 13 counties have been able to offer both indoor and outdoor dining since May 18th. 

Petrillo claims that the state was made aware of the violation by a community member, who called four times to report him. 

“Neighbor, please, meet me to talk. Just talk, this is not some childish veiled threat…I need to understand why you have been working so hard to shut down my business,” Petrillo said in his post. 

Though the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an Imminent Health Hazard Finding after inspection, Petrillo says he was following all CDC health guidelines for indoor dining, including spacing tables, replacing condiments with individual packets, and requiring servers to wear masks. 

“I would never be so arrogant as to say to heck with all the restrictions and do what you want and hang out with your friends and take off your mask,” he said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald

For Petrillo, serving customers indoors is a matter of keeping his business afloat rather than an attempt to make a political statement or stir controversy. 

“I‘m not going on ‘Tucker Carlson’ or any foolishness like that. I just want to be able to operate my business,” he said in the interview. 

Petrillo argues that his restaurant is at risk of permanently closing if he cannot fully reopen. He says it will not survive on curbside pick-up and outdoor dining alone. 

“You’ve got to account for wind, rain, for people who don’t want to sit outside because of allergies,” Petrillo told WGME.  

“I am doing what I must, for my family and my business, including those who work here,” he said in his post. 

Many Facebook users expressed solidarity with Petrillo in the post’s comments, which now total more than one thousand. Some who have never been to the restaurant are now saying they will visit in the near future. 

“I will be on my way tomorrow to support you. Thank you for standing up to Tyrany [sic] and overreaching orders. I have never eaten there before but I will be tomorrow…”  commenter Ron Stewart wrote. 

Petrillo says he will continue to stay open and “face the fines and penalties as they come, according to the final findings of the court.” 

Petrillo’s license suspension follows the infamous defiance of state orders by Sunday River Brewing Company owner Rick Savage in early May. Unlike Petrillo, Savage announced his restaurant’s reopening publicly on Fox News. He lost his license and has joined a class action federal lawsuit against Mills. 

Other restaurants in Maine counties still under restrictive reopening measures have also shown they are unwilling to comply with Mills’ order. On Monday, four restaurant owners near county borders sued Mills, claiming that her plan is unfair and that they ought to have a say in their businesses’ reopenings.

About Isabelle Christie

Isabelle Christie is a senior at Marist College pursuing a degree in history and minors in communication and writing. She is currently serving as Maine Policy Institute’s summer 2020 communications intern.

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