Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking an injunction to stop a Hanover County seafood restaurant from operating after it lost its health permit for failing to comply with COVID-19 safety measures but had continued to operate.
Calabash Seafood’s health permit was suspended July 27 due to a lack of mask usage and socially distanced tables. It received a second notice of suspension on Aug. 13. The restaurant has continued to operate since, according to the complaint.
The Virginia Department of Health has received “dozens of complaints about Calabash Seafood, including that it was allegedly allowing indoor dining before it was permitted. Even after indoor dining has been permitted, the restaurant has been operating with little to no mask usage by employees or patrons, allowed bar seating and dance floors, and has made little to no effort to comply with social distancing requirements,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit, on behalf of the State Board of Health and Virginia Health Commissioner Norman Oliver, was filed Monday against Calabash Seafood and its owners. It seeks a temporary injunction to close the Mechanicsville restaurant until its license is restored.
“We all have a part to play in slowing the spread of COVID, and for restaurant and other business owners, that means following the safety guidelines that will help keep their employees and patrons safe and healthy,” Herring said in a statement. “Compliance with social distancing, mask requirements, and other safety measures will ultimately help us get through this pandemic faster and make it more likely that restaurants and other businesses can stay open for the long term.”
Dennis Smith, the owner of Calabash Seafood, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch earlier this month that while “we encourage people to wear masks,” he does not believe that masks protect people from the coronavirus and feels the governor’s executive orders were unjustified.
Smith also said the health department had tried to suspend his permit but failed to do so because he didn’t agree to it. Agreement to the suspension, the VDH noted at the time, is not required.
Smith could not be reached for comment Monday.
Last week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, visited the restaurant to show her support for its lack of mask enforcement.