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ALE issues citations concerning restaurant’s employees not wearing masks

An agent with the Alcohol Law Enforcement visited Harmanco’s restaurant in Albemarle last weekend and cited the business for continuing to not adhere to proper mask wearing requirements.

ALE, which is the lead enforcement agency for the state’s alcoholic beverage control, made a visit to the restaurant in January. The agency will also submit the violation to the ABC Commission, according to Mark Lesassier, ALE assistant special agent in charge.

Both ALE and the county health department have received several complaints over the past few months from concerned citizens due to employees not wearing masks.

This comes after the state Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter last month asking the restaurant to send back a form within seven business days confirming it would come into compliance with the governor’s executive order.

The letter warned that any violation of the executive order is a Class 2 misdemeanor and could result in further action, such as “an issuance of an imminent hazard abatement order or referral to law enforcement.”

Regarding people not adhering to the executive order, Albemarle Police Chief David Dulin said he is working with the health department and the District Attorney’s Office “to find the best solution to help protect our community.”

The ALE agent also issued a citation due to the restaurant being opened to patrons past 10 p.m., which violates a stay-at-home order Gov. Roy Cooper issued in December requiring all restaurants, bars, personal care businesses and most retailers to be closed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Patrons were also drinking alcohol, even though restaurants must prohibit on-site consumption by 9 p.m., the agent said.

“Since they were still not in compliance with the executive order and the order from Health and Human Services, we decided to issue those citations,” Lesassier said, noting the agent who visited personally met with the restaurant’s owners, Kevin and Jamie Limer.

The citations represent misdemeanor charges for violating the executive order, Lesassier said. They will be filed with the clerk of court’s office and the Limers will have to make a court appearance.

Stanly County District Attorney Lynn Clodfelter said on Wednesday that his office has not yet received any information about the charges.

Health Director David Jenkins previously said the department had visited Harmanco’s on more than one occasion to review the executive order and also sent a letter to the restaurant sharing the executive order.

When entering the restaurant, a sign on the door reads: “STOP! Our staff does not wear masks. If this is an issue, DO NOT come in. Order thru our drive-thru window or get delivery.”

The SNAP talked to owner Jamie Limer last month, who said all employees not wearing masks, including herself and her husband, were exempt due to medical conditions. She said she didn’t know anything about the DHHS letter.

“The ones that have a note from their doctor, I do not make them wear masks because that’s against the Americans with Disabilities Act and I could get in trouble with HIPPA,” Limer said last month.

In an interview last month, Lesassier said no doctor’s notes were filed through the health department or any other agency stipulating the employees were medically exempt.

The Stanly News & Press called Limer Monday afternoon to get her side of the story regarding the ALE citations, but before any questions could be asked, including whether she and her husband had signed the DHHS letter, she hung up.

After reaching out to DHHS about the matter, spokesman Charles Epstein said he would look to see whether other county businesses had violated the executive order.

When reached for comment about any updates, Jenkins declined, stating only that it has been “very challenging addressing that particular situation.”

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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