While most of the state's businesses appear to be adhering to emergency orders issued by Gov. Chris Sununu designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, more entities are openly violating the guidelines as the pandemic drags into warmer weather.
This weekend, Riverside Speedway in Groveton welcomed patrons into its grandstands despite the state’s current prohibition on large gatherings.
In Hampton, where the summer season brings throngs of tourists and crucial revenue to businesses, police responded to complaints of hotels violating Sununu’s orders regarding out of state guests.
This weekend we received a number of complaints regarding Hotels renting rooms to non-essential workers in violation of the Governors Executive Orders. These complaints have been investigated and are being referred to the Attorney General's Office.
— Hampton Police (@HamptonNHPD) May 26, 2020
During a press conference Tuesday, Sununu said the number of entities violating his orders remains “few and far between.”
He also suggested that he didn’t want the public to notify law enforcement if they suspect someone may be violating his own guidelines.
“Look, we are not asking consumers to pick up the phone and we don’t have snitch lines and all that, I don’t believe in all that,” said Sununu. “If there are businesses that are kind of thwarting the guidance, we usually hear about it one way or the other, I’ll say that. And we respond to it appropriately.”
When asked about enforcement, Sununu said each case is being handled independently, and that action against the speedway could be announced later this week.
“We always want to work with individuals, as opposed to there is a blanket template and you have to come down with a hammer on every single individual,” he said.
Attorney General Gordon MacDonald issued a memorandum to law enforcement officials at the start of the State of Emergency laying out possible penalties, including a misdemeanor charge for disorderly conduct. Businesses could face fines of up to $20,000.
To date, no enforcement actions have been announced, although the state has directed at least one police department to issue a written warning.
Last week, Anytime Fitness in West Lebanon received a letter after it opened its doors to gym members in violation of the governor’s orders.
“The State of New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has requested that we serve you this letter and remind you that violation of an emergency order, rule or regulation issued by the governor may lead to criminal charges,” wrote Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello to the club, which has since shut its doors.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice said it was aware of warning letters issued in at least six New Hampshire towns. Those violations included short-term rental properties and another gym that reopened to members.