Businesses that defy order could be fined, lose license

Published: Mar. 20, 2020 at 7:19 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 20, 2020 at 7:21 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Businesses determined to be “non-essential” by the Jefferson County Department of Health were ordered to close by 5 p.m. Friday.

State law gives county health officers the power to implement measures to prevent the spread of disease and attorney Ken Riley said those orders need to be viewed as law.

“It’s not optional,” said Riley.

There will be consequences for businesses that do not follow Dr. Mark Wilson’s order, said Riley. “They can be penalized, in terms of a fine. And then I would expect there would be penalties associated with their business license, that could be suspended or potentially revoked under the circumstances.”

The Jefferson County Department of Health did not respond to questions by WBRC FOX6 about possible consequences, or how it determined the list of “non-essential” businesses, but Birmingham Police said it is on standby to assist, if needed.

A spokesman for Birmingham Police said the Jefferson County Health Department (JCHD) will enforce the order. If a JCHD official finds a violation, Birmingham Police will take a report and give it to the Birmingham City Council Public Safety Committee, according to Sgt. Rodarius Mauldin.

Councilman Hunter Williams, chairman of the committee, said depending on the violation, consequences could include a temporary or permanent suspension of the business license.

Sgt. Mauldin said BPD officers are being trained on how they should respond if they find a violation of the JCHD order while on patrol.

What’s essential?

Dr. Wilson’s order puts restrictions on some essential businesses and closes non-essential businesses, including: - Entertainment, including night clubs, bowling alleys, arcades, racetracks, indoor children’s play places, pool halls, adult gaming and entertainment venues - Recreation facilities, including gyms and fitness centers, swimming pools and spas, excluding licensed physical therapy services Nail salons and spas - Casinos - Concert venues and auditoriums - Theaters - Tourist attractions (including museums, planetariums, parades) - Body art facilities and tattoo services - Tanning salons - Massage parlors - Waxing salons/threading salons - Museums and Galleries - Performing Arts centers/events/rehearsals - Social clubs - Fraternity and Sorority meetings and events - Proms, Formals and other similar events

The order makes mention of “essential” employees in its restrictions on childcare centers. It lists those employees as: - State and Local Governments - First Responders (including EMS and Fire Services) - Law Enforcement - Hospitals - Nursing Home/Long Term Care Facilities (including Assisted Living and Specialty Care Assisted Living Facilities), and End Stage Renal Disease Treatment Clinics - Pharmacies - Grocers - Financial Institutions

Dr. Wilson said unless a business is explicitly stated in his order as having restrictions or being forced to close, it can remain open.

“But, we are saying that everybody, everybody, has to maintain that social distancing, careful sanitation and no more than 10 people congregating together,” said Dr. Wilson.

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