I-Team 8

Indy health officials cite 1,241 businesses during pandemic; only 10 fined

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Marion County Public Health Department is looking for violators of local emergency health orders and, so far, it’s written hundreds of violation notices.

The department also has issued violation notices to 1,241 businesses — only 34 were not food establishments — and taken 22 businesses to court to seek fines as penalties. The Speedrome, three fast-food restaurants, one barbershop and a few gas stations and bars have been fined.

Donna Coffey, the owner of The Corner Bar on South Meridian Street on the far-south side of town, is one of 10 business owners in the county who has been to court and ordered to pay a fine. She knows all too well the enforcement arm of the health department. She has been cited twice for violating the mask order and once for exceeding capacity.

To keep her restaurant open during the coronavirus pandemic, she has expanded her outdoor dining area and hired extra security to maintain social distancing. However, she says, pictures on social media, and live music outside have driven complaints to the health department.

Coffey has concerns about the violation notices. “My property is different than my building. This was September; we already did June, July and August, and now you are coming at me the last — Facebook — last big open stage of the season, (a) tent, yard party, and here he (the health inspector) comes and wrote me a violation for having live entertainment,” Coffey said.  

Coffey has not paid the fine yet. 

Dr. Virginia Caine, who leads the health department, said during a recent coronavirus briefing that her department would be on the lookout for violators during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

“We will continue to have additional staff conducting surveillance, spot checks in and around the downtown area, working with our business partners to help them operate safely within the constructs of our public health order,” she said during the recent briefing.