State Fire Marshal issues several violations to local restaurant

BAR IN QUESTION- A screenshot of a widely circulated video on social media depicts the bar at One Thirteen full of customers not following state COVID-19 guidelines. The state fire marshal’s office acknowledged its awareness of the video.

A report from the state fire marshal’s office shows that One Thirteen on North Oak Street has received a total of 16 violations as a result of three inspections from May 6 through Aug. 29.

The state provides leniency to restaurants that receive violations, but establishments can receive fines or be subject to complete shutdowns if there is a blatant disregard of the state’s compliance orders for COVID-19, said office spokesperson Ashley Rodrigue during a phone call with the Daily Star Wednesday afternoon.

“Just to be clear, a violation is not like a ticket or a punishment that’s handed out but more like a report,” Rodrigue said. “However, 16 violations is definitely not something to be proud of.”

Through investigations, Rodrigue said, the restaurant has been on the radar of the fire marshal’s office and they are aware of a video posted to social media on Aug. 6 that depicts the restaurant operating a crowded bar with a D.J. while most servers and customers are not wearing masks, she said.

Most complaints the state office has received about One Thirteen are because of the restaurant operating a near capacity bar after dining hours, Rodrigue said.

A board assembled by Gov. John Bel Edwards meets weekly and reviews cases, she said, and the board can recommend closure of an establishment if there is a repeated pattern of violations. The board has been delayed from meeting the past two weeks due to relief efforts for Hurricane Laura, but One Thirteen was up for review for disciplinary action at the most recent meeting, she said.

The restaurant’s owner, Bryan Wong, said Wednesday he has no intention of violating guidelines and is trying to follow them in the ever-changing landscape of life with COVID-19.

“This is something we’ve never gone through before, and it’s a challenge because the guidelines keep changing all the time,” Wong said. “The training is tough because we’re playing by ear on what we’re supposed to do.”

Although One Thirteen is a popular restaurant, Wong said he sees the establishment as a small restaurant. He said he is disappointed because he believes other local restaurants have filed reports against One Thirteen.

“It’s just been a tough time to navigate through, but we’re dedicated to coming out of it better,” he said. “Edwards is the governor for a reason so I don’t want to go against the orders. We just want to do what’s right.”

Kati Morse, assistant director of the Downtown Development District, said the DDD promotes business in the area and promotes COVID-19 safe practices as well.

“Anytime you see someone from this office out and in close company we are wearing masks and staying six feet apart,” she said. “In all of our messaging we are promoting that people come to Downtown Hammond but to also be mindful of social distancing, mask wearing, and we provide sanitation stations at events.”

The DDD recently rebranded its “Hot August Night” event so it could be held in smaller gatherings throughout the month. The DDD also started an outdoor concert series in Cate Square to give people and families entertainment in a COVID-19 safe environment where guests can stay six feet apart on the grounds. Masks are not required because state guidelines do not require them in outdoor spaces, Morse said.

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