An Emporia bar became the first local establishment to be issued a citation for violation of the county’s public health order this week.
In a post to his personal Facebook page Thursday, Matt Flowers, owner of The Gym bar located at 1516 W. 6th Ave, retold his experience. According to Flowers, much of the issue surrounded his choice to begin serving food, something which The Gym had done in the past. The decision to do so, he said, was simply a matter of necessity.
“Food was an avenue for me to be able to open back up,” Flowers said. “I felt like I had the proper food license, but here we are. The county health department sent people out, and one of the ladies asked me if I had had dine-in seating previously. I told them ‘yes’, and as I understood it, they were going to send someone else out to see what my food sales were. When they came out, they didn’t really inspect anything, they just asked me if they could speak to me. She basically said, ‘At this time we’re going to have to ask you to close. I asked them what would happen if I didn’t, and was told the city would issue me a citation. So, that’s where I’m at right now.”
If enforced, Flowers could be fined as much as $500 for the violation. Still, he said he harbors no resentment toward local health officials or law enforcement, being more interested in getting to the bottom of the situation than causing controversy.
“I don’t know if they can ultimately force me to close up again, and I really don’t want to get to that point,” Flowers said. “I’m not mad at any of the people involved, though. They’re just doing their jobs, and everyone that came out that day was very cool and professional towards me … But, I went about 70 days with absolutely zero income. This is my livelihood. I think I’ve filed 10 weeks worth of pandemic unemployment, and I’m self-employed, so I still haven’t received a single dime of that. I’ll get it when they get around to it I guess, but that’s a big 'when.'”
The Gym remains open for regular hours during this time, and Flowers is currently set to appeal the matter in court in early July, barring any changes. The Gazette will continue to provide updates to this situation as it develops.
“I’m not looking at this situation as some sort of big radical trying to make all these changes or reopen everything up before it needs to,” Flowers said. “I’m not a defiant person. It just upsets me to know this establishment has never been an issue for the city before, but now we have this situation ...I believe we have the same food and drink licenses as the bowling alley, and they’re currently open. So really, it’s just going to be a matter of getting down to the bottom of this and figuring out what all the laws and regulations actually say and cover.”