CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — A video posted on Reddit shows Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard socializing in a crowded tavern without a face covering.
The 14-second clip was recorded Aug. 15 at the grand opening of The GOAT Tavern, the Reddit poster told News 8.
The footage shows Brainard standing with a man and two women beside a table. All four are maskless but do not appear to be eating or drinking.
Hoosiers are required to wear masks in indoor spaces that are not their homes and when social distancing is not possible outside. People eating or drinking in public are exempt from the statewide mask mandate.
The mayor addressed the video circulating on social media in an emailed statement to News 8.
He claimed he stopped by the tavern to chat with a friend while walking along the Monon Trail and “momentarily” removed his mask to answer a question.
“As it got more crowded, I walked outside and then left shortly afterward,” Brainard said.
The Reddit user who recorded the video refuted the mayor’s account. He requested not to be identified in this report.
“I saw the mayor chatting with several different groups of people when he was there, both inside and outside the building. At no point did I see him wearing a mask,” the Reddit user said.
Jason LeMaster, director of environmental health at the Hamilton County Health Department, called the video “kind of disappointing.”
He watched the clip for the first time during an interview with News 8 about the health department’s handling of complaints lodged against The GOAT Tavern.
Health inspectors were dispatched to the newly opened bar and restaurant after officials received at least four complaints about the weekend opening festivities.
“One thing that was documented in the inspection was employees not wearing a mask,” said LeMaster. “And that’s a big component of what we actually can regulate.”
The business faces no fines. County health officials prefer an educational approach over a punitive one during the unprecedented public health emergency, LeMaster said.
Some regulatory agencies that are slow to enforce pandemic restrictions place a heavy emphasis on social responsibility.
Irresponsible behavior at The GOAT Tavern’s grand opening is well documented.
Multiple photos sent to the Hamilton County Health Department show crowds of tavern patrons – most without masks – congregating in indoor and outdoor spaces.
A photo provided to News 8 by the Reddit user shows a tavern employee with a neck gaiter pulled below his nose and mouth; he appears to be taking orders from patrons.
Tavern management did not immediately respond to requests for comment from News 8.