State Issues Warning To Charlotte Restaurant After What County Health Chief Calls ‘Alarming’ Videos
Last updated Wednesday at 7:05 pm
North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday issued a warning letter to Nikko Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood after it said the restaurant failed to comply with the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
Videos recorded and posted online over the weekend showed crowds of people dancing inside the restaurant. Few were wearing masks or staying six feet apart.
The letter, signed by North Carolina’s Assistant Secretary for Public Health, Mark Benton, was addressed to Nikko’s president, James Nix.
It said the state public health agency had “been made aware of complaints regarding non-compliance” with the face covering and social distancing requirements of Gov. Roy Cooper’s most recent executive order. It asked Nix to sign a form attesting that the restaurant will come into compliance and warned that continued violation of the governor’s order could lead to further action, including a local order to temporarily close the business.
On Tuesday, Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris called the videos “quite alarming.” She told county commissioners that North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein was expected to send the restaurant a warning letter. It is not clear whether that letter was sent as of Wednesday evening. A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office referred questions to the state health department.
One of the people seen in the video without a mask was now-former Panthers defensive back Josh Hawkins. The team cut him on Monday. According to WCNC, coach Matt Rhule did not say whether the decision was related to the video.
WFAE left a voicemail seeking comment from the restaurant on Wednesday morning. The call was not returned.
Harris on Tuesday said the county health department also plans to work with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the county's COVID-19 ambassadors to monitor Nikko and “give them the information and education they need to do better in the future.”
A number of recently identified coronavirus cases in the county have been connected to group gatherings with little social distancing, according to Harris. Those included “a large party at a restaurant involving health care workers” and “a large house party involving high school students,” she said.
Harris urged county residents to avoid being in close settings with people they do not live with.
“We need people to understand the responsibility that they have at preventing further spread by avoiding these gatherings and by sharing information with our department when we call them about these situations,” Harris said.
As of Oct. 25, the county reported 33,383 coronavirus cases among residents and 386 deaths.
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