Customers wait in line while maintaining social distance before entering the Sunday River Brewing Co. in Bethel on Tuesday morning. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

BETHEL — A brew pub owner who was forced to shut down shortly after opening for business Friday in defiance of state coronavirus restrictions reopened again Tuesday.

The state soon issued two more citations to the Sunday River Brewing Co. for violating state rules. Maine’s Health Inspection Program on Friday cited the brew pub for “operating in a non-compliant manner and issued a health code violation and temporary suspension of its license to serve food,” said Kyle Hadyniak, director of communications for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Sunday River now has three citations and its health license has been temporarily revoked, said Hadyniak Tuesday.

About 15 people were lined up Tuesday morning to enter the brew pub. Co-owner Ron Savage told them “things are happening” in Augusta that would result in changes to state coronavirus policy beginning Wednesday.

The governor’s office did not respond to questions about whether the state’s pandemic restrictions might be relaxed Wednesday, but two state lawmakers said legislators and the governor are discussing the rules.

Mills announced the state’s plan for a phased reopening of Maine’s economy early last week, beginning with allowing businesses such as hair salons, dog-grooming services and auto dealerships, as well as some state parks, to start opening on Friday.


Under Mills’ plan, restaurants would be allowed to reopen with certain restrictions on June 1.

Senate Majority Leader Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, said Tuesday that lawmakers and the governor have been talking regularly about reasonable steps that can be taken to allow more business openings without endangering the public. He said some business sectors have sought to demonstrate they can meet high standards for safety if they’re allowed to reopen.

“There’s an important conversation there,” he said.

Shawn Garrity of Arundel staples a sign of support for the Sunday River Brewing Co. in Bethel before the restaurant opened Tuesday morning.  Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

State Sen. Lisa Keim, a Dixfield Republican, said Tuesday there is talk of easing some state restrictions soon.

Keim said she has been hearing from constituents who are frustrated, worried and upset about the restrictions. In Bethel alone, she said, four restaurants are never going to reopen. Other businesses may join them if something does not change soon, she said.

Earlier, a customer waiting to enter Sunday River Brewing talked about why he came Tuesday.

Larry Hilt of Poland said he came “to get something to eat” and show his support for the establishment that made national news when Savage appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox to declare his defiance of the governor.

Hilt said he agrees that steps are needed to try to keep people safe from the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he said, Mills “could do better” in setting the rules.

“There’s a lot of small towns” in Maine, he said, and many of them only have one or two little restaurants. They don’t even have cases of the disease, he said, and ought to be allowed to operate more normally.

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