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Co-owner of Smyrna restaurant Green Stinger says he won't enforce masks

Andre Lamar
Dover Post
The Green Stinger in Woodside was fined $1,000 by the Department of Health and Social Services on Aug. 19 after DPH observed a lack of face coverings and a lack of social distancing in the bar area.

One of the owners of The Green Stinger Sports Bar and Grill recently declared on Facebook that he won't enforce the governor’s mandatory mask policy at his Smyrna restaurant.

Paul Casarotto, co-owner of the Green Stinger restaurants in Smyrna and Woodside, wrote a series of posts Monday in the Smyrna Clayton Residents Facebook page where he explained that masks aren't mandatory at his Smyrna facility.

Casarotto is co-owner of both Green Stinger restaurants with his father, also named Paul Casarotto Sr. His father confirmed that his son made the Facebook posts.

"FYI, we will not enforce mask orders put in place by the governor. We are not police and I'm not aware of any specific individuals' medical conditions," according to Casarotto’s post on Facebook. "Pursuing info on someone's medical conditions opens up a situation in which a lawsuit can be filed against us."

The Dover Post reached out to the younger Casarotto, but he said he couldn't make any comments until he gets approval from his attorney. 

Paul Casarotto Sr. told the Dover Post on Tuesday that masks are enforced at his Woodside restaurant where health inspectors recently cracked down on that facility. But he said his son has the freedom to operate the Smyrna restaurant – where his son doubles as co-owner and general manager – however he sees fit.

"I don't have a problem with what he's doing up there. He can run it the way he wants to run it," Paul Sr. said.

Restaurant fined $1,000

The Woodside restaurant has had numerous run-ins with health inspectors this summer for violating Gov. John Carney's state of emergency guidelines.

Delaware Department of Health and Social Services sent Casarotto an enforcement letter Aug. 19 that lists all of the violations at his Woodside restaurant.

Violations began July 13 when health inspectors visited the Woodside business and observed the following violations:

  • Lack of face coverings for guests and staff.
  • Lack of social distancing.
  • Reuse of condiments without disinfection between parties.
  • Lack of appropriate signage.

On July 30, another visit was made to the Woodside restaurant. A health inspector observed staff without appropriate face coverings. On Aug. 4, the Woodside facility was visited and patrons and staff were observed lacking face coverings.

On Aug. 14, inspectors conducted another site visit and observed:

  • Lack of face coverings.
  • Lack of social distancing in the bar area.

The Woodside restaurant was penalized $1,000 ($500 per violation) based on the Aug. 14 violations.

Owner blames 'trouble' makers

Green Stinger co-owner Paul Sr. said “it’s ridiculous” his restaurant received multiple violations. He said haters are likely responsible for health inspectors keeping a close eye on his business.

“I'm going to tell you right now, there's a bunch of [aggravating] customers that come in there and are looking to start trouble. There's people that we banned from our bars, and I think they're the ones calling up saying we're not following the rules,” he explained.

Division of Public Health spokeswoman Jennifer Brestel said other Delaware restaurants have received administrative penalties for violating the governor’s COVID-19 orders.

Drop Squad Kitchen in Wilmington was fined $300 for three violations, and Malin’s Deli in Newark was fined $200 for two violations.

There are over 3,500 permitted public food establishments in Delaware, according to the state. Most are inspected twice a year using the State of Delaware Food Code, a science-based regulation similar to the national model from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Brestel said an initial violation at a restaurant doesn’t necessarily result in administrative action.

“First reports and minor complaints are often handled by a phone call to provide information and education. Repeat or more severe complaints are handled via site visit, again with a focus on education,” Bestel said. “The most severe or repeat offenders could receive an administrative penalty, or maybe visited by DPH, law enforcement or other authorities.”

Masking up for safety

The public health spokeswoman said a lack of proper face coverings has been one of the most common violations at restaurants during the pandemic. On April 28, the governor made it a requirement for people to wear face coverings in a public setting.

On May 1, businesses were required to follow additional requirements, including requiring employees to wear a face covering while working in areas open to the public or when coming within 6 feet of other staff.

“One of the best defenses against COVID-19 is wearing a face covering and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance from others,” Brestel said. “The primary role of cloth face coverings is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but may not show symptoms.”

Brestel said the Division of Public Health is aware of the anti-mask enforcement comments that Green Stinger co-owner Casarotto made Monday on Facebook. Health officials are investigating complaints related to the restaurant.