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Port Deposit business owner facing charges for Sunday crowds

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PORT DEPOSIT — Maryland State Police from the North East barrack have sent information to the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution of Lee’s Landing Dock Bar for alleged violation of the Maryland COVID-19 regulations.

However the owner of the business, Dave Carey, said he was following Gov. Larry Hogan’s regulations for social distancing and crowd size “to the letter of the law” and is troubled that 15 uniformed officers from 4 different law enforcement agencies responded to Lee’s Landing Sunday.

Greg Shipley, spokesman for MSP, said police were at Lee’s Landing at Rowland Drive in Port Deposit Sunday around 2:30.

“Responding troopers estimated the crowd upon their arrival to be about 70 people who were on the ‘boardwalk’ portion of the business. Individuals were seen eating and drinking,” Shipley said via email.

Troopers said they were at the Port Deposit restaurant a week ago responding to reports of large numbers of patrons. Sgt. S. Spayd said Sunday that the law enforcement agency had to return this Sunday and found more than 70 motorcycles in the parking lot.

“Apparently they thought it was OK to serve drinks at the bar and the dock bar while people waited for their orders,” Spayd said.

Carey told the Cecil Whig that could not be farther from the truth, saying there were no more than 10 motorcycles on the parking lot and customers waited for their orders and left.

“What exactly did we do wrong?” Carey asked. “And who had the authority to take that many resources off the road?”

Shipley said what law enforcement found was a violation of Hogan’s Executive Order and the State of Emergency.

“The investigation indicated the restaurant was selling ‘to go’ food and drink orders, but some of that food and drink was being consumed on the premises,” Shipley said. “The crowd dispersed and those who remained were determined to be waiting for carryout orders.”

Carey wants to know who made the call that sent so many police officers to his door.

“It’s hard enough to get two cops at any other time,” Carey said. “If I called for a riot I wouldn’t get that kind of response.”

Carey said Maryland State Police were joined by Cecil County Sheriff’s Deputies, Maryland Transportation Authority and Perryville police. According to Carey when police arrived they found his staff taking orders and handing those orders — in plastic bags that were tied shut --over to customers. Customers were in measured lines with proper spacing and staff wore masks and other protective gear.

In February Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all restaurants that could not offer take out or delivery to close. To stem the spread of COVID-19 Hogan placed a ban on gatherings, which would include the dining rooms of restaurants. Eventually that number shrunk from 250 to 50 to less than 10 allowed in one place. Customers have to order, get the food and leave, or have it delivered.

According to Spayd, customers were allegedly lingering in the parking lot and around the establishment.

“We were at Lee’s Landing a week ago and we gave them a warning,” the sergeant said. With the second offense the owner faces a year in jail and $5,000 in fines if convicted.

No other tickets or warnings were issued, he added.

Carey said he has no paperwork indicating he is being charged. He added, Lee’s Landing was not even open the Sunday before since it was a holiday.

Also, Carey said he is trying to keep his employees working, even though it means only making about $2,000 a day and being open three days a week. That $2,000 is a meager fraction of his normal take, he said.

“I’m selling my 32-ounce drinks for $5, beer for $1 and crab cakes for $10 when they are normally $18.99. I’m trying to give great deals to my customers at this tremendous time,” he said.

“To raid a local carry out that is doing everything by the book ... is this what the governor wants?” Carey said.

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