Maryland restaurant swarmed by ’15 officers from 4 different agencies’ for serving to gathered ‘takeout’ crowd, owner says

A Maryland restaurant owner wants to know who authorized the “raid” of law enforcement who descended on his business and charged him with allegedly violating the state’s coronavirus orders.

The owner of Lee’s Landing Dock Bar in Port Deposit, Charles Harry Craven Jr., faces a year in jail and $5,000 in fines if he is convicted for trying to keep his employees working while serving the community take-out food.

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

But managing owner Dave Carey maintains that the approximately 70 people waiting for their orders Sunday were following social distancing guidelines “to the letter of the law,” and he wants to know why the eatery was swarmed with police.

“What exactly did we do wrong?” Carey asked, according to the Cecil Whig Daily.

“And who had the authority to take that many resources off the road?” he added, referring to the 15 uniformed officers from 4 different law enforcement agencies who arrived at the popular waterfront restaurant Sunday because it was allegedly in violation of Gov. Larry Hogan’s social distancing and crowd size orders.

“Responding troopers estimated the crowd upon their arrival to be about 70 people who were on the ‘boardwalk’ portion of the business. Individuals were seen eating and drinking,” Greg Shipley, spokesman for Maryland State Police, told the newspaper.

“Apparently they thought it was OK to serve drinks at the bar and the dock bar while people waited for their orders,”  Sgt. S. Spayd said Sunday, alleging there were more than 70 motorcycles in the eatery’s parking lot.

But Carey countered the police account, telling the Cecil Whig that there were no more than 10 motorcycles parked on the premises and customers awaited their orders while practicing social distancing and left when they got their food.

“The investigation indicated the restaurant was selling ‘to go’ food and drink orders, but some of that food and drink was being consumed on the premises,” Shipley said. “The crowd dispersed and those who remained were determined to be waiting for carryout orders.”

Maryland’s Republican governor had ordered the closure of dining-in restaurants back in February and those that offered delivery or take-out options were required to follow Hogan’s Executive Order and the State of Emergency, which banned any gatherings of more than 10 people.

But Carey not only pushed back on the report of the alleged violations at his dock bar located on the Susquehanna River, but he was also shocked by the police response.

“It’s hard enough to get two cops at any other time,” he said.

“If I called for a riot I wouldn’t get that kind of response,” he added, telling the news outlet that Maryland State Police descended on his business along with Cecil County Sheriff’s Deputies, Maryland Transportation Authority and Perryville police.

He noted that the large law enforcement presence arrived to find his staff wearing gloves and masks, taking and filling orders for customers who maintained proper distances while waiting online for their food which was handed to them in sealed plastic bags.

But police alleged that patrons were lingering in the parking lot.

“We were at Lee’s Landing a week ago and we gave them a warning,” Spayd said, though Carey told the newspaper that they were actually closed the previous Sunday since it was a holiday,

Craven Jr., who owns Lee’s Landing Dock Bar, was charged with two violations of Maryland Emergency Management Administration regulations, according to court records, the Cecil Daily reported. One violation is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine and the other, six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“I’m selling my 32-ounce drinks for $5, beer for $1 and crab cakes for $10 when they are normally $18.99. I’m trying to give great deals to my customers at this tremendous time,” Carey said, explaining that the restaurant is only open three days a week and making about $2,000 a day.

“To raid a local carry out that is doing everything by the book … is this what the governor wants?” he asked.

Maryland reported 76 new deaths on Saturday, the state’s highest single-day jump, and with 28 more added on Sunday, has seen a total of over 900 confirmed and probable coronavirus deaths, according to The Washington Post. But the extreme measures of enforcing state-mandated orders to allegedly keep the virus from spreading has angered Americans in states across the nation.

In the case of the Maryland eatery, police noted customers “sitting at an exterior booth” while waiting, and even “an exterior trash can overflowing with what appeared to be recently disposed of drink and food containers,” according to Maryland State Police Tfc. Mingle in court records.

The restaurant’s Facebook account was also examined to back up the allegations, claiming it was advertising food and mixed drinks without properly explaining that it was for take-out only.

Social media users were outraged, pointing out that businesses like Carey’s trying to help employees and residents through the coronavirus pandemic are regularly targeted while crowds of customers are not detained shopping in grocery stores.


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