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Golden Spike COVID-19 noncompliance discussed by Tavern Association

 

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Plastic stretched over a wooden frame, aimed at keeping the contact between the bartender and customer as minimal as possible, is seen Sunday at the Eagles Club in Havre. Eagles Club Manager and Hi-Line Tavern Association President Tom Farnham said bar owners and managers are upset because, while they are following restrictions under the phased re-opening of the state to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Havre bar The Golden Spike is not.

Hi-Line Tavern Association President Tom Farnham said the association discussed the situation with local bar, The Golden Spike, which Farnham said has been consistently ignoring the governor's COVID-19 guidelines since long before the implementation of Phase Two of the state's re-opening.

The state has imposed restrictions on businesses, including bars, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while the state goes through a phased re-opening plan.

Farnham said the matter was discussed by members of the association who were upset about the situation, but he said, the association doesn't really have authority to do anything about it.

"Some of them (the association members) were really upset about it, the group as a whole thought that everyone should be following the same guidelines," he said.

"What's good for one should be good for all," he added.

Tammy Walters, owner of the Golden Spike, declined to be formally interviewed, but said, in response to the request, that more important things are going on in the town and country than the operation of her bar and that it was ridiculous that the Havre Daily News would devote any time to it. She said the paper should do a more positive piece.

Walters also said she cleans the bar from floor to ceiling consistently.

Farnham said the concern voiced at the meeting was not that a bar not following the guidelines could eat into the business of those that were, but that it was a matter of fairness.

He said the bar has been repeatedly reported to the Hill County Health Department, but so far the Spike has only received a warning from the County Attorney's Office.

Farnham said The Golden Spike's behavior has not changed since that letter was sent.

"It's a shame that not everyone was following the rules to make the health department's job a lot easier," he said.

Hill County Public Health Director Kim Larson said in an email that COVID-19 presents a unique situation for the department and it has been difficult to adapt to.

"COVID-19 has been a new and trying time as we at the Hill County Health Department have never truly experienced something like this in the past," Larson said.

She said the health department is trying to provide education and guidance to businesses in that area, but she's aware that there are some that have not been following the guidelines.

"We understand the frustration around this noncompliance and know that we are evaluating every call and concern we receive," she said.

Larson said the Hill County Health Department has a three-step process for taking action against noncompliant businesses. First, they must receive a non-anonymous call or complaint.

She said these complaints need to be officially documented and the caller must be willing to participate in a formal legal process if necessary, including providing a name, phone number, address and being available to testify in court.

Next, an order of corrective action is delivered to the business and third a formal fee/injunction/citation is issued.

She said no business in Havre has reached stage three yet.

Larson said this process is thorough and time-consuming and requires the cooperation of local law-enforcement and the attorney's office.

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

"The goal of the Hill County Health Department to provide education and information, not to make this process more difficult for our local businesses," she said. "We all hope we can work together to encourage business owners to make the necessary changes in their practice."

The governor's guidelines for Phase Two require surfaces to be regularly sanitized, for bar seats to be six feet from taps and wells, as well as six feet away from each other, unless a group of 10 or fewer people ask to sit together.

The guidelines for Phase One said that patrons could not stand or sit at the bar at all.

Farnham said this rule in particular was consistently violated by the Spike long before the implementation of Phase One.

Phase Two allows groups of up to 10 people to sit together at tables, but tables must be at least 6 feet apart.

 

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