By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A Cheyenne restaurant could lose its liquor license because the owner is no longer following state public health orders.
Sanford’s Grub and Pub has posted a sign on its doors telling patrons that it will not follow social distancing requirements or mask mandates for guests required under the latest statewide health orders.
Kathy Emmons, Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department executive director, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that she is speaking with the Cheyenne city clerk and city attorney to figure out the city’s next steps. Those could include the suspension of the restaurant’s liquor license, which is issued by the city.
“(Owner James Yates) He made it very clear that he understood the health orders, but had no intent of complying with them,” Emmons said.
Emmons said she believed there was enough space in the two-story restaurant to keep patrons spaced six feet apart. But she said she believes Yates’ decision to disregard the order was not made for business reasons.
“This is just somebody being belligerent,” she said.
Not so, said Yates. He told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that his decision was made to keep his business afloat.
“I didn’t do this for any reason, except for the fact that if I don’t do it, I can’t pay my bills …. and I’m not going to lay off any more of these hardworking employees that worked for me,” he said.
On top of that, Yates said he believes the public health mandates are unconstitutional. The sign he put on the restaurant’s front door of the restaurant explains his decision.
“Having deemed the Wyoming social distancing mandates unconstitutional and no longer having anything to do with the health and welfare of our public, and in defense of the livelihood of our employees, customers and great people of this community, this establishment is NOT following social distancing orders,” the sign reads.
Health orders in place until at least Monday require six feet of space between customers in restaurants and require staff and patrons both to wear masks. Patrons can remove their masks after they are seated.
While the restaurant is requiring employees to wear masks, it will not abide by capacity, seating or mask requirements for customers.
“We still stand for freedom,” the sign said. “God bless America.”
Emmons said she knew about the sign for a couple weeks, but initially thought the owner might have misunderstood the health orders.
“We always start out with educating a person initially, we always think everyone has good intentions, so we sent in an inspector to talk with the owner,” Emmons said.
Next, the Health Department sent in an inspector, along with Cheyenne police officers, to verify that Yates wasn’t going to follow the mandates.
Again, he made it clear to everyone involved that he was not complying with “unconstitutional” orders, Emmons said.
Emmons said at least one outbreak has been associated with Sanford’s since the pandemic began, when three people with ties to the restaurant were infected with the virus. She didn’t indicate when the outbreak took place or whether the infected people were staff or patrons of the restaurant.
The Health Department has also been in contact with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, which issues restaurant licenses, about the possibility of shutting the restaurant down temporarily or even permanently, but Emmons noted that forcing its closure would be a complicated situation and process.
“We don’t want to intrude on people making a living, but we also want to keep people safe,” Emmons said. “This isn’t an easy situation.”