Calabash Seafood ordered closed by court
Temporary restraining order issued by Hanover County Circuit Court judge
Updated 2:45 p.m.
A Hanover County seafood restaurant was ordered closed by a Hanover County Circuit Court judge Tuesday after the restaurant continued to operate with a suspended license due to COVID-19 safety violations.
Judge Patricia Kelly issued a temporary restraining order effective as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, temporarily shutting down Mechanicsville’s Calabash Seafood, which stayed open after its license was suspended by state health inspectors July 27 and after a second notice Aug. 13.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver and the Virginia Board of Health, represented by the attorney general’s office, filed a motion in August asking for an injunction against the restaurant, which disregarded public health orders issued by Norman and Gov. Ralph Northam in June, requiring employees and customers to wear face coverings inside restaurants except when eating or drinking, and closing bars and other areas where people congregate.
According to the motion, the Hanover Health Department received “numerous complaints” about the restaurant’s practices, including that the manager of the restaurant “did not take the threat of COVID seriously, saying that the ‘health department could not tell him what to do,’ that ‘the servers did not need to wear face coverings,’ and that he ‘did not see the need for face coverings, claiming that COVID-19 was pretty much over.’”
The restaurant’s website posted a message that it would be closed until further notice and included a link to its GoFundMe page, where owner Dennis W. Smith is trying to raise $100,000 for legal fees. As of Tuesday afternoon, the page, set up Aug. 16, had raised $1,833. An employee who answered the restaurant’s phone Tuesday afternoon said it was closed.
“The battle has just begun,” Smith wrote in the statement on the website. “Governor Northam has done a great injustice to the Commonwealth of Virginia. He had no justification for the executive orders he signed. The numbers on the [Virginia Department of Health] website clearly show this data. The governor believes he is in control of the state as its new dictator. We the people are in charge. We will show him that we the people rule. This GoFundMe page is to hire an army of the best lawyers across the state to crush Governor Northam.”
In a video posted by Republican gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase on Facebook in August, Smith said, “It’s going to take a court order” to close the restaurant. Chase was criticized for refusing to wear a mask at a Harrisonburg restaurant and threatening to sue its owners after they enforced their mask policy. Smith and the restaurant’s cook, Richard A. Shearin, were named as plaintiffs, along with the business entity.
The state asked for the restaurant’s closing while its license is suspended, “until the matter is decided on the merits.”
Smith’s attorney declined to make a statement Tuesday.