Coronavirus

Restaurants near county borders sue Governor Mills over reopening restrictions

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Four restaurants in southern Maine are suing Governor Janet Mills over COVID-19 restrictions that prevent them from fully reopening. 

Mills’ current reopening plan bans restaurants in three counties––Androscoggin, Cumberland and York––from offering dine-in services until an undetermined date. Meanwhile, restaurants in Maine’s 13 other counties have been able to reopen since May 18th. 

The owners of the Campfire Grille in Bridgton, Morning Glory Diner in Bridgton, the Olde Mill Tavern in Harrison and the Shed Restaurant and Willy’s Market in Acton argue that Mills’ plan is unfair to restaurants near counties where restrictions are more relaxed. While the four restaurants are located in Cumberland and York counties, they are all less than 6 miles from the border with Oxford county. 

Moreover, the towns in which they are located have experienced few cases of the virus. According to the Maine Center for Disease Control, both Bridgton and Harrison have had between 1 and 5 confirmed cases while Acton has had no detectable cases. 

“Now that Gov. Mills has released virus-related information by ZIP code, it is clear that Gov. Mills’ Restarting Plan to blanketly close all dine-in restaurants within these three counties, and not by town or ZIP code, is not the least-restrictive method available,” Lipman and Katz attorney Stephen Smith, who is representing the restaurant owners, said. 

Smith filed the lawsuit in York Superior Court on Monday. Ray Richardson, a conservative radio host who spearheaded the action against Mills, says that they hired an outside firm in Indianapolis to draft the lawsuit. 

“We didn’t want any law firm in Maine to feel pressure from the governor,” Richardson said in a press conference on Monday. 

He went on to add that the owners understand how to operate their businesses and respond to the virus responsibly. 

“Our business owners have been denied the ability to lead… they know how to run their businesses, something the governor has freely admitted she has no experience,” Richardson said. “In other words, we have someone with the authority but no credentials.” 

He says that Mills’ has taken “draconian measures” since assuming emergency powers and compared her actions to those of a dictator. 

Smith spoke similarly of Mills, who he criticized for delaying restaurants’ reopening just days before they were slated to offer dine-in services. 

“These Mainers were told by Gov. Mills that they could open their restaurants June 1,” Smith said. “Our clients purchased food to fill their coolers, only to be told, at the eleventh hour, that Gov. Mills had changed her mind. At this point, our clients are no longer being governed, they are being ruled.”

The lawsuit follows several others that have been filed against Mills over her response to the pandemic. Several other businesses in Maine, also represented by Smith, sued Mills in May. Representatives from the tourism industry have also sued Mills over her recently amended 14 day quarantine for out-of-state visitors. 

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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