The city of Columbia received a complaint Monday that Boone County Southern District Commissioner Fred Parry was ignoring the city’s health ordinances at a restaurant Saturday night — one of many complaints the city has received about its restaurants and bars.
In documents obtained by the Missourian, citizens complained about parties at D. Rowe’s Restaurant in south Columbia and The Roof, the bar at the top of The Broadway hotel. A separate email included complaints and photos of gatherings at Como Smoke and Fire barbecue restaurant on Paris Road on Friday evening.
Photos attached to the emailed complaints showed a crowd at D. Rowe’s Restaurant & Bar, including Parry, congregating closely with people not in their families without wearing masks. In one photo, Parry is seen in a close embrace and sharing a cookie with a woman identified as Lisa Rubinelli-Stockman. In other photos, patrons pose while embracing.
“The photos that I’ve seen, it appears as though that there wasn’t appropriate social distancing occurring,” said Scott Clardy, the assistant director of the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department. “There were no masks, or anything like that.”
In Columbia, everyone 10 and older is required to wear a face mask when around those outside their household in both private and public settings. There are exceptions for people with disabilities, and masks can be removed when eating or drinking at a bar, exercising outside, driving a vehicle and when remaining at least 6 feet away from others.
When contacted by the Missourian, Parry said he and his wife attended a birthday party in a private dining room at D. Rowe’s with six other couples. He said he and his wife wore their masks while entering and leaving the restaurant.
“I have been vocal throughout the course of this pandemic about our need, as a community, to support our small businesses while being serious about efforts to contain the spread of this disease,” Parry said in a statement emailed to the Missourian.
“My family and I have gone out of our way to support Columbia’s small businesses during this challenging time, and while we make efforts to mask and socially distance in public, it is sometimes challenging, especially in certain social settings.”
The room where the private party was held has a capacity of 56 people, said David Rowe, the owner of D. Rowe’s. He said he felt he and his staff did what they could to enforce the city’s ordinances during the private party.
“We socially distanced our tables,” Rowe said. “If somebody stood up and got a picture taken, if nobody was in there, what are we supposed to do?”
Rowe said confronting customers not following ordinances can put both employees and customers in a bad position. However, he said the restaurant does its best to adhere to the city’s rules. Signs have been posted about social distancing, he said, and tables have been spaced 6 feet apart.
The county’s health ordinance now prohibits restaurants and bars from hosting groups of 10 or more patrons unless they submit a plan of operation to the health department. The 10 person limit was not in effect during Saturday’s event at D. Rowe’s.
Representatives from The Roof were unavailable Tuesday to comment on the complaints and photos.
According to the complaint regarding Como Smoke and Fire, table layouts were set up in the same manner as before the coronavirus pandemic. Photos attached to the complaint showed tables close together and unmasked patrons sitting side-by-side at the bar.
No one at Como Smoke and Fire could be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Clardy confirmed the agency had received the complaints and reached out to all three establishments. He said the agency would work on compliance with the city and county’s health ordinances.
The three restaurants did not receive notices of violation or fines, he said.
The city has continued to alter its health ordinances as COVID-19 cases in Boone County increase. A new health order that increased bar and restaurant restrictions went into effect Monday.
During a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Brian Treece said he’d recently met with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, MU and 38 downtown businesses owners about the city’s mask policy. He said he felt his message to them was clear.
“We can have one big back-to-school bash and be shut down the rest of fall — and probably throughout the spring,” he said, “or we can all take steps to model behavior that is responsible, follows the guidance of public health professionals and allows... all of those bars and restaurants and retail stores and apartments to stay open and students to stay in class.”