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Courts and Crime

Savage Says He's Willing To Go To Prison After Courts Close Sunday River Brewing

Robert F. Bukaty
Savage talks to a reporter outside his restaurant after he defied an executive order that prohibited the gathering of 10 or more people and opened his establishment during the coronavirus pandemic Friday, May 1, 2020, in Bethel, Maine.

A Superior Court Justice granted a temporary injunction Friday against Sunday River Brewing Co., the Bethel restaurant owned by Rick and Ron Savage, which lost its licenses after defying Gov. Janet Mills’ executive orders.

In his ruling, the judge ordered the restaurant to stay closed until its licenses are reinstated. The injunction was sought by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal.

Rick Savage went on the Fox News talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Wednesday, where he said that if the judge granted the injunction, he would still remain open.

“I guess I’ll sleep in a prison cell for a while,” Savage told Carlson.

Violating the injunction could lead to criminal charges for Savage.

The co-owner of Sunday River Brewing told Carlson on Wednesday that he believed the court action taken against him was meant to “make me an example” because he defied Mills’ orders.

“If they want to make me an example, they can come after me,” he said.

Savage has continued running the restaurant despite losing his licenses last month, the Lewiston Sun-Journal reports.

Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon wrote in his ruling that the injunction is justified by the safety risk Sunday River Brewing poses to the public by remaining in operation.

“… based on the evidence received to date, the injury to the public outweighs any harm which granting injunctive relief would inflict on defendant,” McKeon wrote. “The harm to defendant is that it will not be able to operate, at least in the short term, losing revenue. Although this will have a financial impact on the defendant, it does not outweigh the injury that continued operation causes to the public’s interest in the enforceability of the department’s licensing requirements.”

Savage told the Lewiston Sun Journal that he’s not keeping Sunday River Brewing open because he wants to make money, but because he wants to stand up for other small businesses.

“I don’t have to do this,” he said. “We’re doing this for other people in the state of Maine.”

Savage’s continuing defiance is what prompted the court action, according to the DHHS complaint.

“The defendant has made no effort to cooperate with the department to have its license reinstated, and has clearly communicated its intention to continue to operate with a suspended license,” according to the complaint submitted by Attorney General Aaron M. Frey.

After the injunction was granted, Savage told the Lewiston Sun Journal that he would not only continue to operate his restaurant, but that he planned to file a lawsuit against Mills and the DHHS.

“Everyone who messed with us is going to have a lawsuit on their hands,” Savage said. “It’s going to be with a pretty powerful attorney and we’re going to win.”