COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A Coventry restaurant was forced to shut down over the weekend after violating the state’s COVID-19 compliance order.
According to an immediate compliance order issued by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation (DBR), Harris Bar and Grille was ordered closed after the state conducted a series of inspections of the restaurant in both June and July.
In the compliance order, owner Dennis Colicchio told inspectors he could not keep his doors open if he complied with the state’s regulations, saying that he “cannot earn a living and will have to close the establishment if he is forced to comply.”
Inspectors that visited the restaurant noted that both Colicchio and the bartender were not wearing face masks and the bar was overcrowded. They also said the restaurant lacked signage reminding customers of the statewide regulations and a safety barrier separating the customers from the bartender.
The restaurant reopened Tuesday after correcting the violations.
Harris Bar and Grille is one of eight businesses listed on the DBR’s website that were found to be in violation of the state’s compliance order over the holiday weekend.
North East Screen Printers is another one of the businesses that the DBR said violated the state’s compliance order.
In its report, the DBR claimed the West Greenwich business had no hand sanitizer and some employees were not wearing face masks.
Owner Garrett Cole tells Eyewitness News that one of the inspections listed in the violation did not occur, and his low scores during the two that did were not justified.
“To me they weren’t really helping me, they were just coming in to see if I was following the guidelines or not,” Cole said. “Giving me no information and then leaving.”
Cole has 10 days to correct the violations before further action is taken against his business.
The compliance orders are part of a statewide crackdown on restaurants and bars to ensure that masks are being worn, social distancing is being maintained and proper hygiene is being followed.
Gov. Gina Raimondo issued a stern warning Wednesday, reminding everyone that while bars can serve food and drinks, patrons should not be congregating in the bar area.
“No bar in the state of Rhode Island should be operating as a bar,” she said. “You’re not allowed to go up, order a drink and hang out at the bar.”
If inspectors see an “egregious disregard for the rules,” Raimondo said the establishment will be issued a compliance order and potentially a fine on the spot. For a second offense, the restaurant or bar will be issued a fine and could be shut down until it can demonstrate the appropriate changes have been made.
For less serious violations like a lack of signage, Raimondo said a warning will be issued for the first offense, followed by a compliance order or fine the second time around.
Raimondo said over the holiday weekend, 20% of the state’s restaurants that were inspected by the Rhode Island Department of Health were not conducting contact tracing or following the state’s social distancing mandate.
“In more than 10% of the restaurants we inspected we observed crowding and too much mingling,” Raimondo explained. “We’re not going to be afraid to fine you immediately and shut you down if we need to.”
Raimondo encouraged Rhode Islanders to file complaints with the DBR if any see businesses breaking the rules.