Rick Savage, the co-owner of Sunday River Brewing Company, addresses reporters outside his restaurant in Bethel in May. Credit: Charles Eichacker / BDN

A judge has ordered Sunday River Brewing Co. in Bethel to close for the second time this year because it violated state restrictions to fight COVID-19.

State inspectors have cited the restaurant for staff members not wearing face coverings and failure to install plexiglass, CBS affiliate WGME reported.

Co-owner Rick Savage told WGME that a judge ordered that the restaurant close for 30 days about a week ago. Savage said he would not follow the order and will go to court next week in a fight to keep his business open.

Sunday River Brewing has been in a long-running battle with state officials over COVID-19 restrictions. In May, it defied orders from Gov. Janet Mills that dine-in restaurant services remain closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The restaurant lost its state health and liquor licenses shortly after.

On May 15, a Superior Court judge issued a temporary injunction against Sunday River Brewing ordering the restaurant to stay closed until it got its licenses back. Those licenses have gone in and out of suspension since, and Savage told WGME that they were reinstated earlier this month.

An Oxford County judge ordered Sunday River Brewing to allow state officials to conduct inspections in early October after Savage refused to let an inspector inside. State health officials had received complaints that the business was not complying with COVID-19 requirements over the summer.

Savage has been a public opponent of restrictions instituted by Mills to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including joining a class-action lawsuit fighting the shutdown. In April, he blasted Mills’ coronavirus policy on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” saying that he would be willing to go to jail to keep his restaurant open.

Maine restaurants that refuse to follow COVID-19 protocols on face coverings and social distancing risk closure by the state, though universal enforcement of the rules is difficult. Investigations often begin with consumer reports to state officials.

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