Coronavirus: Huntsville restaurant bans governor, state officials over mask orders

Coronavirus: Huntsville restaurant bans governor, state officials over mask orders
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who issued a mandatory face mask order, has been banned from a Huntsville restaurant, according to its owner. (Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — An Alabama restaurant owner, angered at the state’s mandatory rule that requires people to wear face-coverings during the coronavirus pandemic, has banned six state and local officials from his Huntsville business, including Gov. Kay Ivey.

Mike Heffelfinger, who owns Johnny Gryll’s II, posted the ban on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Wednesday.

In addition to Ivey, persona non grata patrons include Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison County health officer Karen Landers, state health officer Scott Harris, Madison Mayor Paul Finley and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

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“This ban is in response to draconian health orders issued by the aforementioned individuals requiring most people to wear a mask in Madison County and ultimately all of Alabama,” Heffelfinger wrote. “These orders create unnecessary stress, liability, and physical, mental and financial burdens on the restaurant and its employees.”

The following individuals are banned indefinitely from entering Johnny Gryll's (Huntsville) restaurant: Madison County...

Posted by Johnny Gryll's II, Huntsville on Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The statewide mask order was issued by Ivey on Wednesday and went into effect Thursday at 5 p.m., AL.com reported. The mandate will be in effect at least through July 31, the website reported.

People who defy the statewide mask order risk a $500 penalty or jail time, but Ivey said the focus will be on education, rather than punishment, AL.com reported.

By Thursday afternoon, Heffelfinger’s Facebook post about the ban had received more than 1,700 shares and more than 2,400 comments. Responses have been mixed, AL.com reported.

Heffelfinger told WZDX his employees are following the mandatory mask order even though he disagrees with it. Heffelfinger said despite criticism, he is standing by his Facebook post.

Johnny Gryll’s, a casual restaurant that specializes in burgers, wings and fried chicken, has two locations in the Huntsville area. The other restaurant is not owned by Heffelfinger and is located 9 miles away in Harvest, and the owners are welcoming everyone -- including the governor, AL.com reported.

“The Johnny Gryll’s location in Harvest is separately owned and operated from any other. We appreciate our customers reaching out to us,” owners wrote in a Facebook post. “We look forward to serving you some of the best burgers, Philly’s, wings, chicken, and ice cream around town, but bring your mask.”