The Bulletin Board

Budget includes money to repay businesses fined for violating COVID-19 orders

By: - June 21, 2021 2:01 pm
State House dome

Joshua Elliott of Goffstown has worked with the Republican Party in the New Hampshire Senate since 2015. (New Hampshire Bulletin)

House Republicans got three of the four budget demands they told the Senate were non-negotiable: a ban on teaching about structural racism, a restraint on the governor’s emergency powers, and $10,000 to repay businesses that were fined for violating COVID-19 precaution orders.

Their big loss on that list was Gov. Chris Sununu’s family medical leave program, which the House Republicans refused to include in their budget. In an email to the Senate Finance Committee in April, House Finance Chairman Rep. Ken Weyler, a Kingston Republican, said the program could be abused and gives a win to the State Employees Association “with no payback.”

The refund to businesses slipped under the radar when the other three demands drew so much attention during budget negotiations.

In addition to refunding the eight businesses fined for violating the governor’s order on mask use and other restrictions, the budget requires the Attorney General’s Office to ask the courts to dismiss any pending enforcement action, and would expunge court and state records related to the fines.

Both the Loudon Village Country Store and Fat Katz Food and Drink in Hudson were fined $2,000. 

Tom Vaughan of Fat Katz was fined after moving a karaoke event from the parking lot to inside the restaurant, in violation of its permit for the event. Three days before the fine was issued, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported that 17 cases of COVID-19 were associated with an outbreak stemming from two people who went to the restaurant. Vaughan could not be reached for comment. 

Don and Dawn Plourde, owners of the Loudon Village Country Store, were warned 10 times before being fined for not requiring staff to wear face coverings, according to the Attorney General’s Office. During the pandemic restrictions on businesses, the Plourdes hung a sign on the store’s door saying it was their constitutional right to refuse to follow the emergency order. “We know how to wash, clean our hands and NOT sneeze or cough on people,” it read. 

The Plourdes did not return a request for comment. 

The New England Flag Football League was fined $2,000 for allowing teams from outside of New England to compete in a tournament in Epping after confirming multiple times that non-New England states would not be included. 

Grumpy’s Bar and Grill in Plaistow was fined $1,500 for violating mask and social-distancing requirements. The White Mountain Tavern in Lincoln was fined $1,000 for the same violations, as well as for having too few bottles of sanitizer and allowing two performers on the stage at a time. Owner David Culhane told the Bulletin in April that he negotiated it down to $600. 

Three additional restaurants were fined $500 each for violating pandemic rules.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.