Rick Savage, owner of Sunday River Brewing Co., left, poses with a fan Saturday during a rally opposing the governor’s plan to slowly reopen the state’s businesses. Savage told a Fox News Channel audience Thursday that he would openly defy Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order and open his restaurant. He opened Friday and officials pulled his health license in response. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal   Buy this Photo

BETHEL — The owner of Sunday River Brewing Co. in Bethel will not face charges after he defied the governor’s executive “stay safer at home” orders and opened the restaurant to diners Friday afternoon.

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright said criminal charges are not expected to be filed against Rick Savage after an eventful couple days in which he appeared Thursday on the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News to say he would open his business despite Gov. Janet Mills’ orders. He then proceeded to open his doors for customers on Friday, as promised, and by 4:45 p.m. the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations had seized Savage’s health license, and in effect his liquor license.

Late in the day Savage was still defiant, saying he would stay open unlicensed and simply pay whatever fines he accrued.

Then on Saturday, Savage was a speaker at a large rally in Augusta at the State House with hundreds of people protesting what they call Mills’ overly restrictive orders, and demanded reopening Maine’s economy faster than the governor had planned.

Savage was greeted like a rock star, drawing cheers and shaking hands and posing for photographs arm in arm with other protesters.

Rick Savage, owner of Sunday River Brewing Co., left, shakes hands with fans Saturday during a rally to reopen Maine, held between the Blaine House and the Maine State House in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

He said fundraising has brought in “up to $100,000” that would be used to sue the state in a lawsuit he said would also represent Maine small business owners who have lost money due to the pandemic shutdown. He said he’s lost $650,000 in revenue due to being shut down.

“I think you might see, this week, they’ll rescind (Mills’) orders, because they’re unconstitutional,” Savage said. “Everybody needs to stand together. To open up together.”

Other speakers at Saturday’s rally included a Penobscot County doctor who said coronavirus quarantine measures have a slew of negative health consequences of their own, and state lawmakers who said they think the Legislature may need to reconvene to serve as a check and balance against the power they said was taken by Gov. Mills under emergency powers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Candidates for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District Adrienne Bennett, Dale Crafts and Eric Brakey also attended the rally.

Multiple calls to Sunday River Brewing Co. were not answered Saturday. The restaurant posted on it’s Facebook page that it would be closed for the weekend and would, according to the post, “check on our Federal Permits before we make decisions on reopening. [Sic].”

Owner Rick Savage addresses a large group of people Friday night outside his Sunday River Brewing Co. restaurant in Bethel. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Requests for clarification as to what federal permits would allow Sunday River Brewing Co. to stay open were not returned Saturday.

Savage’s defiance of the state mandated order struck a chord with other businesses throughout the region on Saturday, with multiple restaurants saying they would open for dine-in services.

In Rangeley, Moose Alley, a recreation center consisting of a bowling alley, pub and arcade, announced on its Facebook page that starting Friday, May 1, it would open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

According to the Facebook page, people will reserve specific times to bowl.

“There will be no guests or staff in your physical bubble while you bowl or enjoy your time here,” the post reads. “If you are bowling, no other bowlers will be on the lane next to you.”

One person wrote in the comment section that they were “disappointed” in the bowling alley opening despite the governor’s plan to slowly reopen.

The owners replied that they were following “every process that the governor and her team have described to date, including filing our plans with the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Nancy Bessey, one of the co-owners of Moose Alley, wrote on her Facebook page that the bowling alley has “redesigned (its) operating plans” and that “we’re carefully managing our space and capacity” and “examining a limited days but expanded hours approach in order to make economic sense, as well as allowing for extra days to deep clean and sanitize between customer visits.”

She also explained on her Facebook page that “there is no approval process for rural areas at the state level, just a clear pronouncement that we can all move into Phase 1 reopening if we so choose.”

“All businesses, regardless of type, will be open by July 1,” Bessey continued. “Waiting until July 1, however, is lousy timing for our town, which is beginning to fill with summer residents even now.”

According to a Facebook live video by Bald Mountain Camp Resort owner Steve Philbrick, the restaurant, located in Oquossoc, had opened for dine-in customers Friday, but was notified Saturday morning by the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations that if Bald Mountain Camp Resort continued to operate, its licences would be removed. In the video, Philbrick stated that they would only be open for take-out.

Wainwright said that the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office “was not part of any criminal or civil enforcement” at Sunday River Brewing Co. on Friday, and Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said the Maine State Police did not respond to Sunday River Brewing Co. on Friday.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: