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Fat Daddy’s responds to photographs

The pictures showing patrons of a bar not following COVID-19 safety measures, which caused a firestorm on social media and contributed to the shutdown of bars in Monongalia County on Tuesday, were taken more than 30 minutes before it opened.

That is according to a statement by Fat Daddy’s Bar and Grill, which was sent to The Dominion Post on Friday by Michael Cardi, an attorney who represents the bar.

“What the photographs do not show are the efforts we made to protect these young men and women and, by extension, our community, at the door and inside our establishment,” the statement said.

Those efforts included providing free face masks, requiring they be worn, limiting patrons to those 21 or over, enforcing the maximum occupancy of 50% of seating and properly spacing out tables, according to the statement.

Fat Daddy’s did not receive any citations of any kind pertaining to COVID-19 during the one night it’s been open since March, it said.

Before opening on Tuesday, Fat Daddy’s consulted with lawyers and city and county officials to figure out the conflicting orders and ordinances and to provide a safe environment for “young members of our community that may not be as concerned with the dangers of COVID-19 as many others.”

Only bars in Monongalia County were closed for over a month, even though the county was green or yellow for most of the time period, the statement said. When Gov. Jim Justice closed the bars again on Wednesday, Kanawha County had more confirmed cases of COVID-19 per capita and yet bars in that county are open.

Even people who think bars should be closed should be able to get behind the idea Mon County is being targeted, Cardi said.

“And if that’s going to be the case, OK, but you gotta help us out,” he said.

If the community thinks that bars should be closed for the duration of the pandemic, Fat Daddy’s would respect that decision, the statement said. However, that choice would impose “great hardship” on the lives and livelihoods of residents in just one of 55 counties.

A large portion of $2.22 billion CARES money has been earmarked by Justice for infrastructure or industries indirectly impacted by the pandemic, while local businesses with direct damages suffer, Fat Daddy’s said.

Some money — a maximum of $5,000 — has gone to businesses that qualify under the governor’s program, the statement said.

“Respectfully, this simply is not enough,” Fat Daddy’s said. “$5,000 cannot keep our businesses alive during a continued, indefinite closure, let alone secure jobs or ensure the ability to reopen after a months long shutdown.”

Cardi also represents the Morgantown Retailers Association, which includes a number of other bars and restaurants.

Some places have lost $50,000 or more during the six-week shutdown, he said.

Announcing the shutdown 10 days at a time made things more difficult because they couldn’t take cost-saving measures such as turning off utilities, Cardi said. An indefinite closure is just as bad.

“It honestly may have helped if the governor said ‘hey, we’re gonna shut down for three months but we’ll help you out,’” Cardi said.

He has been working with the governor’s office to secure additional funds for the impacted businesses.

“I know that to make everyone whole, to replace the profits that we believe we would have made over the past month and a half, to hold us for the next couple of months; it would be a decent amount of money,” Cardi said. “Bottom line, they want enough to allow them to open their doors whenever they’re permitted to and to continue to operate.”