The owner of The Office Saloon in Gillette has been ticketed for violating state COVID-19 health orders for allowing dozens of people to drink on the bar’s property.
Campbell County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the bar twice Wednesday after receiving reports of about 50 people gathered outside the bar having drinks, Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds said. Bars and restaurants are closed to the public because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants can still fill curbside and delivery orders and bars are allowed to sell alcohol through drive-thru windows, but they can’t open their buildings to customers.
When deputies arrived at the bar at 3 p.m. Wednesday, they found about six people inside sitting at the bar drinking water and eating food, Reynolds said. The bar owner told deputies the people were workers on a break. Another complaint brought deputies back to the bar about three hours later.
They were greeted by a large group of customers drinking on site who were disgruntled with Gov. Mark Gordon’s orders. Deputies broke up the party, Reynolds said.
The bar’s owner told deputies that Dr. Kirtikumar Patel, Campbell County’s public health officer, gave his permission for the bar to serve alcohol at tables outside, Reynolds said.
That claim was untrue, said Ivy McGowan, spokeswoman for Campbell County Public Health. In fact, she said The Office Saloon had been warned twice — once verbally and another time in writing — earlier this month about serving customers on the property while the state’s public health orders are in effect. One of those warnings came from Dr. Patel and another from an agency representative, she said.
“What’s really important to understand is both the deputies as well as Dr. Patel have tried really hard not to go down this route,” McGowan said about ticketing the business. “We put forth every effort to avoid having to issue citations.”
At one point Wednesday, a bartender told deputies to leave when they were explaining they had to enforce the state health order, Reynolds said. The owner also told deputies to return Friday and bring their “paddy wagon” because the bar would be open then.
Also Wednesday afternoon, the owner of Uncle Fredie’s Junkyard Grill was warned by Gillette Police after finding about 20 customers sitting outside eating and drinking alcohol, said Lt. Brent Wasson.