NKY cafe owner criminally charged after violating governor’s COVID-19 order

Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 12:49 PM EST
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DRY RIDGE, Ky. (FOX19) - A northern Kentucky business owner faces criminal charges after violating Gov. Andy Beshear’s order closing in-person dining at restaurants and bars to try to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

“It seems aggressive for selling sandwiches,” said Richard Hayhoe of Beans Cafe & Bakery in Dry Ridge and Hebron. “It is going to be interesting to see what direction this takes. We are looking forward to our day in court.”

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office served Hayhoe with the criminal complaint summons at his home on Tuesday, said his attorney, Chris Wiest. The documents informed him he was charged with two misdemeanor counts of operating a restaurant without a permit, one in Grant County and another in Boone County.

Beans continued indoor dining after losing its food permit in November for defying the order. He also established “Beans Freedom Defense Fund.” To date, the GoFundMe fundraiser has generated $6,970 toward a $10,000 goal.

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The Northern Kentucky Health Department will not be deterred from their duty to enforce this Governors Emergency Orders!...

Posted by Beans on Tuesday, December 15, 2020

“We have received many emails and requests from others that appreciate our standing up against the business suffocating dictates coming from Governor Andy Beshear’s office,” reads Beans’ GoFundMe page.

“Beginning Friday Nov. 20 at 5 p.m., our indoor dining room was no longer allowed to be used to eat in. I could, however, purchase tents, heating equipment & lighting and simply seat people outside. The irony of seating people inside a tent that is outside is not lost on the common sense of regular thinking but that is the ridiculousness of the rules we must follow! We will be keeping our dining room open until such time that we have exhausted every legal avenue to defend the business against these unlawful guidelines.

“You have asked how you can support our standing for freedom so we have created this page to allow those that choose to help in any legal issues that we may find ourselves embroiled in by standing up for your right to choose where to eat and what to wear!”

Restrictions on indoor dining in Kentucky that went into effect Nov. 20 ended Monday.

Beans’ owner told FOX19 NOW Wednesday he kept in-person dining going because stopping it would have resulted in immediate layoffs for his 35 employees.

That would have been a tough blow, especially right before the holiday, he notes.

“They are counting on that paycheck,” he said. “We need to keep these people working so they can get gifts for their loved ones, keep their homes, keep their families warm and fed and the lights on. The people who work in the restaurant industry have more of a need for that pay every week and in their pocket. They have real obligations. They don’t have bank accounts and 401ks. That’s a reality.”

Now, Hayhoe and his lawyer are ready for another legal showdown with the governor and Northern Kentucky Health District.

“Chris Wiest and I will go to court anytime to keep employees working in an inspected, hygienic dining room just before Christmas!” reads a Facebook post from Beans Cafe late Tuesday.

Hayhoe joined other northern Kentucky business owners who sued over similar COVID-19 orders from Gov. Beshear earlier this year.

They won in local county court, but ultimately lost in the state’s top court.

RELATED: Kentucky Supreme Court upholds Beshear’s COVID-19 restrictions

The governor’s lawyers successfully argued the orders saved thousands of lives and he has the constitutional authority to invoke emergency powers during a pandemic.

Wiest tells FOX19 NOW they will challenge the criminal charges in both Grant and Boone counties.

“This is the same restaurant that sued the governor over the summer. This looks and smells like retaliation,” he said Wednesday. “This would have been a human tragedy had he closed, his employees would have been laid off and some of them would have been homeless. These employees were depending on him for a job and to keep their homes and families going. He was willing to risk his own liberty, his own freedom.

“This is an absurd attack on a small business by a governor and a health department that are out of control. We intend to vigorously defend these charges in both Grant and Boone Counties in front of juries composed of the community. I am going to put the governor on trial.”

Lynne Saddler, the district director of health for NKY Health, says the health department routinely receives and investigates complaints about possible violations of the state’s COVID requirements.

Saddler says the majority of establishments comply with the requirements once they are investigated and brought to their attention.

“Since Beans establishments continued to operate with a suspended permit, NKY Health referred the matters to the County Attorney’s Office in Boone County on December 7 and Grant County on December 8.

“NKY Health has taken these actions in accordance with Governor Beshear’s Executive Order which mandated enforcement steps for establishments regulated by public health. NKY Health has also worked in consultation with the Kentucky Department for Public Health throughout this process,” Saddler said in a statement to FOX19 NOW.

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