Restaurant owners respond to COVID violations: ‘It won’t happen again’

Restaurant owners respond after 4 businesses receive compliance checks as ABC announces crackdown on violations

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Four businesses in Northeast Arkansas have received either verbal warnings or formal violations for lack of compliance to COVID-19 directives by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

In a list provided to Region 8 News, the following businesses had violations between Nov. 2 and Nov. 8:

  • Cregeen’s in Jonesboro
  • Tammy’s Tipsy Tavern in Paragould
  • 412 Club in Paragould
  • Backwoods Steakhouse and Grill (Formerly Oscar’s Steakhouse and Grill) in Batesville

The board has agents check for compliance and observe if restaurants follow the directives from the Arkansas Department of Health, such as wearing masks while not eating or drinking and social distancing.

Cregeen’s in Jonesboro received a compliance check on Nov. 6, and one employee was found in non-compliance with a directive.

“We require all employees and customers to wear masks,” Cregeen’s management told Region 8 News in a statement. “This particular incident happened very late. The employee had started his closing process and had mistakenly let his mask slip to his chin. It won’t happen again!”

Tammy Hogan from 412 Club in Paragould told Region 8 News they have never got a warning from the Alcohol and Control Board. Hogan added they were told they were the only bar staying in compliance, and people sign in and get their temperature taken when they walk in.

Hogan said they have spent tons of money on personal protective equipment and offer masks and hand sanitizer to their customers.

They had no idea why they made the list.

According to Scott Hardin, Spokesperson of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, a verbal warning was issued because patrons were playing pool without masks.

The owner of Tammy’s Tipsy Tavern in Paragould said Tuesday evening that the customers and employees had their masks on during the compliance check except for one worker in the kitchen area.

That individual was approached by the agent and advised about being in non-compliance.

The owner added that incident has been addressed and that they have always cleaned regularly.

Hardin said that after six months and over 100 violations, the learning window for businesses strictly complying with COVID-19 guidelines is beginning to close.

“Look this is tough. We understand it,” Hardin said. “It’s extra work on you, your staff. However, we want to see your employees remain employed. We want to see your establishment remain open. Please do the right thing. Please stay within the guidelines. Nobody wants to write a violation, nobody wants to apply a fine, so please do the right thing.”

The spokesperson added that they would start to become more strict on violations of COVID-19 directives, including issuing fines starting at $600 and then subsequently leading up to revocation of business liquor license.

General Manager Cliff Brown with Oscar’s Smokehouse claims he never received notice of any wrongdoing until this report came out.

Brown did recall a visit from the ABC a few weeks ago. He says he believes they were written up because a bartender was not wearing a face covering.

Brown says the restaurant has already taken a hit in sales due to the pandemic, and now he says this report hurts him even more because he believes that all the protocols have been followed.

“We’re doing everything that we can, of course, to pay the bills and make sure that our patrons are taken care of and that they’re protected and they’re safe,” Brown said.

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