Some Hampton Roads businesses work to reopen after food permits pulled by health department


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Phase 3 of the reopening of Virginia created a phase Geoff Fout has never seen after 30 years in the restaurant business.

Fout’s permit to operate Mack’s Barge on Colley Avenue was pulled Thursday night after an unannounced visit from two health department inspectors and two armed agents from the Virginia Department of Beverage Control.

“Two ABC agents in tactical gear — fully armed — with the health department saw that the guy [a customer] had a drink on the bar and literally there were no other [occupied tables] inside the restaurant that holds about 120,” said Fout.

Over the past few days, the state has suspended food permits for Norfolk establishments: Mack’s Barge, The Living Room and Chicho’s Backstage Cafe. In Virginia Beach, permits were pulled for two other establishments: The Boxx on Atlantic Avenue and Central@Shore on Red Tide Road.

State health officials found issues regarding social distancing guidelines from the Norfolk restaurants regarding bar seating and crowding, while the Virginia Beach restaurants had problems with social distancing and employees not wearing masks.

Businesses are working to get their licenses restored; Mack’s Barge reopened Wednesday for lunch.

The owners of The Living Room lounge on North Military Highway tell a similar story.

On Friday night, a team that included armed ABC agents in tactical gear paid a visit to the establishment. The owners were expecting a report of a job well-done since all staff and patrons wore masks. Instead, the business’s food permit was pulled. Crews there were busy Wednesday cleaning the building to prepare for reopening,.

A state attorney, Karri Atwood of the Virginia Health Department, told WAVY-TV 10 permits can be pulled under the governor’s Executive Order 67.

“That does have a requirement that their employees have a face covering and if that were an issue we would seek enforcement against the business for that,” said Atwood.

Many the businesses are working to reopen, so call ahead if you plan to visit.

Mack’s Barge reopened Wednesday after the owner installed numerous new signs calling for distancing. The owner, who has owned 19 other restaurants, calls the rules “inconsistent.”

“They came in with a purpose, and that was to shut us down. It was not coincidental that the ABC showed up with the health department,” said Fout.

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