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Checkmate Pizza hit with $500 fine by state for not wearing masks 

  • Checkmate Pizza on Washington Street. Geoff Forester—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/18/2020 5:57:30 PM

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has fined Concord’s Checkmate Pizza $500 for failing to follow mask-wearing guidelines for employees, the office said.

A letter sent Wednesday stated that the Washington Street business had ignored multiple warnings given by the office over the summer after a string of complaints.

“In addition to jeopardizing the health and safety of both the public and your employees, your failure to follow Emergency Order 52, as extended, is a violation of state law,” the office said in the starkly worded letter.

A representative for Checkmate Pizza was not immediately available to comment Wednesday.

According to the Attorney General’s letter, the office received its first complaint on July 10 stating that the cashier was the only employee in the pizza establishment wearing a mask, and that the restaurant was overcrowded.

At one point, on July 17, the Concord Police Department checked in on the business but found no violations.

But on July 31, another complaint came in that no employees were wearing face masks. And on Sept. 21, a third complaint alleged that employees in the kitchen were not wearing masks and that one had touched their face while preparing the pizza.

At each occasion, the manager of Checkmate was contacted directly by the Attorney General’s Office and told that the restaurant must come into compliance with the state’s guidelines for restaurants or face a violation, the letter stated.

That guidance states that if employees can’t socially distance in a kitchen, they must wear masks, and that employees interacting with customers must always wear masks.

The guidance also holds that if there is not enough space inside the restaurant, the restaurant must make customers line up. Checkmate Pizza is a small establishment with a counter and a kitchen, but no indoor chairs and tables.

The violation goes against one of Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive orders, Emergency Order 52, which laid out universal re-opening guidelines for all businesses during the COVID-19 state of emergency, as well as specific guidelines for restaurants. That order carries statutory weight, the Attorney General’s Office says: RSA 21-P:47 states that a person who “violates or attempts to violate” any executive order given under the state of emergency “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

The Attorney General’s Office is not pursuing misdemeanor criminal charges against Checkmate’s management, but warned the establishment that that could be a future option.

Instead, the office is relying on the authority laid out in Sununu’s Emergency Order 65, which states that the Attorney General’s Office can issue civil penalties of up to $1,000 per violation, or $1,000 per day that the violations continue.

The office chose to issue a $500 fine, which must be paid by Nov. 30, the letter stated. Checkmate Pizza has the option to challenge the penalty with the Attorney General’s Office itself, and negotiate a settlement.

The attorney general’s office also cited  Simply Delicious Baking Co. in Bedford and What a Bagel in Nashua for similar violations.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at 369-3307, edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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