The co-owner of a Sheridan brewery and restaurant said her business has been threatened with closure for failing to require employees to wear face masks.
Tiffany McCormick, teary and visibly angry at times in a Facebook video, said Sheridan’s chief of police and another uniformed officer told her that if her business, Smith Alley Brewing Co., did not comply with Sheridan County-specific regulations issued by the State Department of Health, it would be fined and its license could be revoked.
Sheridan County last week was given approval to let its restaurants and bars open before the statewide orders closing such businesses were to be relaxed. The exemption was granted by the state on the condition that restaurants follow a list of health safeguards, including one requiring staff members to wear face masks.
McCormick said her brewery has followed 20 out of the 21 mandates. She said the only restriction the company is not following is ensuring that all employees wear masks.
She said it is her belief that such an enforcement is prohibited by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“I, myself as an employer, cannot ask my employees why they refuse to wear a face-covering. I cannot ask them to do that,” McCormick said.
HIPPA guarantees the privacy of health care records and information. The ADA guarantees equal employment opportunities for the disabled.
McCormick said she has provided her employees with face masks but is not mandating they wear them.
“I have not forced my employees to wear masks,” she said. “If you are a patron that doesn’t want to come in here and support us, that is your choice as an American citizen.”
McCormick said she understood that Police Chief Rich Adriaens was doing his job but added he had the freedom to not enforce the restrictions if he wanted.
“It’s his choice to enforce these mandates,” she said. “It’s the chief of police’s choice to do this.”
McCormick said Adriaens told her if the restaurant didn’t comply with all 21 of the mandates by Friday, the restaurant would be fined and its license would be revoked.
“Potentially, also, they could arrest me,” she said. “Now I am a mother of four children. I am tax paying citizen. I have never been arrested. You’re telling me my business deserves to be shut down because we’re not following one of these mandates?”
Later in the video she questioned why her employees had to wear masks, but when police dropped by, neither of the officers were wearing a face covering.
“If you are serving something why aren’t you wearing a mask?” she said. “He said the police were exempt from wearing a mask.”
McCormick said she spoke to Sheridan County legislators Mark Jennings and Bo Biteman about the situation and they encouraged her to speak out.
She said they speculated that the police might be trying to make an example out of her for an earlier video she posted which “ruffled a lot of feathers.”
Jennings voiced his support for McCormick on his Facebook page.
“Thank you Smith Alley Brewery for reaching out to myself and Senator Biteman. It is our honor to stand with you and other businesses like you. We will do everything we can to continue to support our small businesses,” it read.
The Sheridan Police Department was not available for comment.