This report may be updated.
Some Marshall County restaurants are considering remaining open for in-person dining, in defiance of Governor Andy Beshear’s order restricting operations of bars and restaurants to combat the commonwealth’s explosion of COVID-19 cases.
Popi’s, a recently remodeled restaurant in Draffenville, announced in a Facebook post Thursday they will not close their dining room to comply with the state mandate.
“Popi's has decided to remain open for business,” the post reads. “We are taking extra precautionary measures for sanitization as well as requiring everyone to wear face masks.”
In a Facebook comment on that post, the restaurant states the decision to remain open in defiance of Beshear’s order was “out of respect for our 50+ employees and for our community”.
Popi’s staff declined to provide an interview for this article. Other area restaurants are following the lead of Popi’s when it comes to closure decisions. Hutchens, a Benton barbeque restaurant, is waiting for more restaurants to make their decisions public before deciding on its own policy. Hutchens Co-Owner Janet Howard told WKMS she’ll close the dining room if similar restaurants in the area do the same.
“If everyone in the surrounding restaurants decides to stay open, we will join them,” Howard said. “If one or two is gonna stay open, then probably not.”
Howard said part of the decision hinges on the outcome of a conversation with county Judge/Executive Kevin Neal. She said she’s looking for information from Neal about the stipulations associated with keeping the restaurant open, and any potential consequences from violating Beshear’s order. WKMS reached out to Marshall County government leaders for comment, but no response has been received. This article will be updated if Neal or other government leaders respond.
Marshall County Health Department Director Billy Pitts said he’s still working to determine what authority his department has to enforce the executive order. He said he’s aware of the attempts by some restaurants to stay open, and reached out to attorneys at the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services for legal counsel.
“The official answer is we’re trying to figure it out as we go,” Pitts said.
A special-called meeting of the Marshall County Board of Health is scheduled for Saturday, November 21. The governor’s order is listed as a discussion item for the meeting.
Pitts said he had not yet spoken to Neal, but that Neal is a member of the Board of Health and will be involved in discussions on the matter.
WKMS also reached out to the governor’s office for clarification on the consequences of violating the executive order. This story will be updated with their response if one is provided.
When asked about enforcement of the executive order, Beshear in his Wednesday press conference on COVID-19 said the state would rely on county governments for help.
“We’re also going to be asking for our counties for assistance. Under Chapter 39A, they can enforce many of these parts of the executive order,” Beshear said. “Most of the groups that are impacted are licensed. And there will be issues with those licenses if they don’t follow these new rules and restrictions.”
Beshear added that restaurants and bars that don’t follow the order will be ineligible for the $40 million fund made available to businesses impacted by the restrictions. Chapter 39A of the Kentucky Revised Statutes pertains to emergency management and also details the emergency powers of local executives and the governor.