The Big Moose Inn on Millinocket Lake is seen in this Aug. 18, 2020, photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The state has reinstated the eating and lodging license of the Katahdin-region inn that hosted an Aug. 7 wedding reception now connected to at least 123 cases of COVID-19, after briefly suspending it this week following repeat health violations.

On Friday, the owner of the Big Moose Inn, Laurie Cormier, acknowledged some of the violations in her first public comments since the outbreak was announced last week. 

In a written statement, she said that the venue has “worked hard” to abide by the state’s coronavirus restrictions, but “did make an error in the interpretation” of a rule that limits indoor gatherings to 50 people and is now working with state health officials to ensure it’s operating safely. 

“While we cannot be sure the virus was fully spread at our facility, we know that there are things that we can be doing better,” Cormier said. 

She also expressed condolences to people affected by the outbreak, saying, “Our hearts go out to the family, those affected by the virus who were at the wedding, and those who have been impacted since then. There is no doubt that this virus is dangerous with wide-ranging impacts. We too are deeply saddened and frustrated by the many devastating impacts of COVID-19. This is a challenging time for all of us.”

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that the Big Moose Inn on Thursday had corrected all the violations that were found during an inspection one day earlier, leading to the license reinstatement. 

The violations included tables spaced less than 6 feet apart and employees not wearing face coverings or ensuring proper social distancing. In addition, the business did not have correct documentation showing that out-of-state guests were following travel restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

The reinstatement of the license on Thursday allowed the Big Moose Inn to resume accepting guests and serving food. Now, the state “is closely monitoring the establishment to ensure continued compliance,” said Robert Long, a spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state first sanctioned the Big Moose Inn last week, giving it an imminent health hazard citation in connection with the Aug. 7 wedding reception. That’s an official notice that the inn violated one or more state health rules. The citation asked the inn’s operators to comply going forward.

State inspectors found that the inn had violated a few different safety measures when holding the reception. It exceeded the state’s 50-person limit on indoor gatherings, exceeded the number of guests allowed under its license, failed to ensure a 6-foot distance between customers and staff and failed to ask customers for their contact information in the event of an outbreak, according to the original citation. 

Then, the state temporarily suspended the inn’s lodging and eating license this week after the follow-up inspection on Wednesday turned up additional violations.