West Virginia restaurant fights mask mandate; faces shut down by health department

West Virginia

HURRICANE, WV (WOWK) — A restaurant in Putnam County has chosen to not comply with West Virginia’s mask mandate. Now the Putnam County Health Department has given the owner a 24-hour ultimatum to comply.

Bridge Cafe & Bistro, located off of Route 34 in Hurricane, posted on their Facebook page announcing their decision to forgo wearing masks, for both its employees and customers, which quickly exploded with reactions, comments and shares.

Andrew Stewart, owner said, “I completely support peoples’ decisions to wear a mask and I support those that make the decision for themselves not to wear a mask.”

Bridge Cafe & Bistro reopened on July 2, 2020. Soon after Governor Jim Justice’s mask mandate took effect, the owners addressed their stance on the mandate, saying that they want to be transparent and honest in how they’re operating their establishment.

“We wanted to offer people insight as to how we were running the operation before they ever entered the door so they could make an informed decision whether or not they wanted to dine with us,” Stewart said.

The post prompted many people to contact the health department, which is now telling the restaurant to comply as required by Justice’s executive order.

Stewart said masks serve little to no purpose at a food establishment.

“What is the point, I don’t understand how we’re all sitting here breathing the same air inside the same building, but just because you’re at your seat, the mask is optional now, it just doesn’t make sense,” Stewart said.

Stewart is now facing the possibility of losing his food service permit if he chooses to stand his ground. The health department will have an inspection tomorrow.

In order to get the permit back, Stewart will have to request a hearing with the public health officer.

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