WATERTOWN — Jefferson County officials are addressing frequent complaints against bars and restaurants about following COVID-19 guidelines, but no enforcement has been taken against these businesses so far.
Scott Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, said on Saturday that officials are taking a more compassionate route with businesses that have been the subject of complaints about following COVID-19 guidelines.
“I have spoke to some of them and I would say ‘You want to deal with me. You don’t want to deal with SLA (State Liquor Authority)” Mr. Gray said. If it goes to that level, then their license is in jeopardy. They are better off heeding our warning when we talk to them.”
The county receives complaints via phone, but mostly they come electronically when someone files online on the state’s PAUSE website. Many complainants start with a local police department, of which will then usually refer them to the state website.
From there, the complaint is immediately sent to County Administrator Robert Hagemann, Mr. Gray and the county attorney.
If the complaint is valid, a letter requesting the establishment comply with state guidelines is mailed to the business. Or in some cases, Mr. Gray will call them directly. Or a code enforcement officer will be sent to hand-deliver a letter requesting compliance — an instance which is frequent, Mr. Gray said, and mostly done if the complaint is about over capacity.
Most complaints are for staff members or customers not wearing masks — in which case a letter is sent — others are for capacity violations.
Of the businesses that have received a letter or call, all have complied after the fact, and the county has taken no enforcement on any business, Mr. Gray said.
Right now, the county is really focusing on contact tracing of COVID-19 cases. And that’s one line Mr. Gray uses with businesses that aren’t happy with the reopening process.
“You don’t want a COVID-19 case traced back to your location,” Mr. Gray said. “We would have to quarantine your staff immediately.”