MANCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) — Under a new executive order announced by Governor Ned Lamont Tuesday, businesses in Connecticut can be fined $10,000 for breaking COVID-19 safety rules. Now, critics are speaking out, saying it’s a gut punch to businesses struggling amid the pandemic.
Governor Lamont said of business owners Tuesday, “They have a warning from the state that it could be expensive if they don’t follow protocols”
Gov. Lamont says the approach will help avoid a full shut down. But critics say it’s a gut punch and an anti-business message during a crisis.
The Restaurant Association Executive Director Scott Dolch says of the governor, “our industry will continue to stand with him and call out anyone who isn’t following the rules. If we’re going to punish the few bad actors, how are we also going to help the many, many good actors?”
Gov. Lamont is considering using money collected from fines to support small businesses.
Republican Minority Senate Leader Kevin Kelly said, “It’s wrong to provoke fear and implement enormous fines without defining a clear appeal process and making a concerted effort to increase communication and assistance to those trying to create jobs and figure out how to navigate the pandemic.”
Including, a popular Manchester Road Race watering hole, the Hungry Tiger. It was shut down Tuesday for alleged COVID-19 rule violations.
“It’s a big part of Thanksgiving in Manchester. It would be great to see them back open again,” said Jordan Sabin of Manchester.
He and his cousin, Jeremy, usually run the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving. This year it’s virtual.
Jeremy Sanford explained, “You’ll see people run from the start line and just stop right there and that’s their finish line.”
News 8 cameras spotted the Fire Marshal inspecting the Hungry Tiger. Owners declined to stick around for an interview. Health officials pounced after numerous spot checks revealed violations. Just one day before the new $10,000 civil penalty goes into effect.
During the last 9-months of the pandemic, several restaurants were closed due to similar violations, including the Brickyard Pub in Fairfield, Anthony’s Ocean View in New Haven, and The Russian Lady in Hartford.
According to David Lehman of the State Department of Economic and Community Development, on average, 500 complaints a week are called in to the state. Violations range from no masks to no social distancing.
Gov. Lamont’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds said the state will support local health departments “If we’re going to raise these fines to this level to send a loud message…” If locals are unable to enforce the rules Mounds added the state will step in.
The new civil penalty goes into affect at midnight Thursday.
Meantime, Jordan Sabin has this message “hunker down for a little more, and hopefully, things go back to normal.”