Local restaurant defies state order, warns customers that staff does not wear masks

ALBEMARLE, N.C. — A sign on a restaurant door in Albemarle warns customers that its employees do not wear masks.

There have been so many complaints that officials have warned Harmanco’s Restaurant on East Main Street that if the state’s COVID-19 mandate is not enforced the restaurant could be shutdown.

There has been no evidence of compliance and no action several weeks after the warning.

Channel 9 anchor Susanna Black visited Harmanco’s Friday for a couple hours.

People let Black know they’re disappointed that Harmanco’s won’t follow the governor’s mask mandate, because they feel it’s not safe to eat at the restaurant.

>> Remember, you can watch our radar/newscasts anytime at home on Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV

Black called the owner, Jamie Limer, to get her side of the story. Limer refused to answer Black’s questions. However, Limer did say some of her staff do wear masks and those who don’t have medical exemptions.

The lunch rush was in full swing at Harmanco’s even with the sign on the door that reads, “STOP! Our staff does not wear masks. If this is an issue, DO NOT come in. Order thru our drive-thru window or get delivery.”

Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins told Black in an email, “Masks are not being worn by staff of Harmanco’s due to the medical exemption claim.”

[CORONAVIRUS IN THE CAROLINAS: HERE’S HOW TO STAY INFORMED]

Jenkins said the health department has received several complaints by phone and email, visited Harmanco’s on more than one occasion to review the executive order and sent a letter to the restaurant sharing the executive order.

When that did not work, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter one month ago asking the restaurant to send back a form within seven business days confirming it would come into compliance with the governor’s order.

The letter then warns that any violation of the executive order is a Class 2 misdemeanor and could result in further action, such as an “issuance of an imminent hazard abatement order” that could close the restaurant. There could also be a “referral to law enforcement.”

Black contacted Albemarle Police Chief David Dulin and confirmed that he is “working with the Health Department and the District Attorney’s Office to make sure we take the necessary steps needed to protect our community.”

Black is in continuous contact with DHHS and the Stanly County Health Department to find out if the emergency hazard abatement order is still in the cards.

North Carolina’s mask mandate doesn’t require anyone to carry documents or paperwork showing proof of a medical exemption. It’s based on the honor system.