Marion restaurant told 'no dining in'
The owner of a local diner has questions after an officer came to his café “to chase everyone out” and “threaten people.”
Marion police officer Duane McCarty went to Edward’s café in north Marion last Wednesday after being sent there by the county health department because people were inside dining.
Police chief Clinton Jeffrey said McCarty informed employees and diners of the governor’s April 17 executive order.
The order amended specific provisions for restaurants. Unlike a previous executive order, the April 17 order permits up to 10 customers to come inside to pick up their orders as long as they remain six feet apart, and more than 10 employees to work at the same time as long as they maintain six feet of social distancing.
An earlier order requiring no self-service of unpackaged food or beverages and no dining-in remains in effect for restaurants.
County health nurse Diedre Serene said the health department had gotten phone calls reporting that Edward’s dining room was open.
“Duane went out there and found several people dining there,” Serene said. “He explained what the governor’s newest executive order said.”
Jeffrey said McCarty’s conversation with the diners and employees at Edward’s remained polite.
“We don’t want to write any citations to anyone,” Jeffrey said. “We don’t intend to as long as everyone does the right thing. It was less of a warning and more of an education on it.”
Beneke’s version, although he admits he was not present for McCarty’s visit, is that McCarty threatened diners with $500 fines and ordered them to leave.
The incident took place before opening hours, so Beneke questioned whether the people eating there at 9 a.m. could be considered “customers.”
“Diedre sicced the cops on us, I guess, because we had people in the restaurant,” Beneke said.
Beneke said he wonders what his rights as a business owner are.
“My question is, what are our rights when we’re not officially open?” he said. “Can anything go in there when we’re not officially open for business? We’re open from 11 to 2. (The incident) was before that.”
Beneke said the governor’s order does not contain evidence of a fine for diners.
“Nobody can tell me what we can do during our closed hours,” Beneke said.
More than 10 employees can be present, he pointed out. That means he can permit as many people inside as he wants.
“It depends on how many people I put an employee badge on,” he said.
He also dislikes the way the situation was handled. He’d rather the health department had phoned him “rather than having the cops come in the door and rant and rave and throw everybody out.”
Beneke said he’s still stung by an incident that took place before the governor issued a stay-home order.
“They tried to get us to shut the dining area two weeks before the governor’s order went into effect,” he said. “Dr. Hodson came and said he wanted us to close the dining area. My opinion was he had no jurisdiction to do that.”
Beneke said he’s heard restaurants might be able to reopen the dining areas after May 3. That’s not soon enough.
“We’re still losing over $1,000 a week with limited hours,” he said.
He said he got a payroll protection loan, but doesn’t know if he can meet the requirements for the loan to be forgiven.
He’d considered closing the restaurant earlier, but decided instead to shorten hours.
“We had inventory we thought we could use in a week or two, and in four weeks, with less volume, we still haven’t used it up,” Beneke said.
If it were certain when the dining room can be opened, that would help him know whether to keep operating on reduced hours or to closed completely.
“Are we going to wait another 10 days to see what we’re going to do?” Beneke said. “Are we going to wait tomorrow and tomorrow?”
He expects to decide May 3 whether to shut Edward’s down.
Serene said the health department also sent e-mails to veterinary offices that were performing dog grooming services.Veterinary medicine is considered an essential service, Serene said. Dog grooming is not.
Serene said she encouraged them to contact the state for clarity, and some responded that some dog grooming is medically necessary.
Marion dog groomer Autumn Hanson suspended grooming services in March when all non-essential businesses were required to discontinue operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m not opposed to grooming, at some point I hope state reconsiders it as being essential for a dog’s health,” Hanson said. “I was abiding by the law while they took advantage of being open because they were essential, and then overstepped by still grooming.”
Last modified April 30, 2020