New Hampshire restaurant opts to shut down rather than enforce face-mask mandate

The restaurant will continue to operate its ice cream stand until the end October

A New Hampshire restaurant closed instead of complying with the state's coronavirus mask mandate.

Roselynn Homemade Ice Cream and Lunch in Epping served its last meal earlier this week after owners Joe Bolge and Dorene Heselton received a call from the state attorney general’s office: A customer had reported the restaurant for not complying with the state’s face-mask protocol.

Rather than comply with the measure, Bolge decided to close his restaurant.

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"I don't have any issues with health laws and regulations," Bolge told Fox News. "What we had an issue with is that this was a governor's mandate that was set up over seven months ago that was meant to be a two-week mandate, to flatten the curve, so hospitals wouldn't run out of equipment."

"The curve was flattened long ago, but the mandate remains, so it has become a control mechanism."

An Oct. 18 post on the restaurant’s Facebook page shows a whiteboard, which states that the restaurant will stop serving breakfast and lunch “until further notice.” The restaurant will keep selling ice cream until Oct. 30or “until sold out.”

“This is not good-bye – we hope to re-open in the near future!” the post also reads, along with a reminder that people need to vote on Nov. 3. “Remember – ‘You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything!’”

When the attorney general’s office contacted Bolge about the complaint, he confirmed that the customer's report was correct.  

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"The bottom line for us is that our customers should have the right to decide if they feel safe coming in here knowing full well that we're not wearing masks," Heselton said. "We don't force anyone to come in here, it's their choice."

The owners told Fox News that no customer ever asked the employees to wear a face mask. Heselton's daughter, who will continue to operate the ice cream stand until the end of the month, has opted to wear a mask should any customer ask her to, partially out of concern for the attention that the restaurant has drawn since announcing its closure. 

"We do have those from around the world who are bashing us, spitting numbers that have been put out there, but we've found that 90% of people reaching out from all across the country are positive," Bolge said. "We're not saying the virus isn't real - it's a virus! It's just not as dangerous as they portray it to be." 

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Bolge opened the restaurant about 10 years ago with his partner, Heselton. During the height of the pandemic, the restaurant switched to takeout only but had reopened in full as soon as the state allowed.

Restaurants have regularly butted heads with state officials over the conditions of reopening, with many finding such measures restrictive and difficult to cope with.

In Pennsylvania, the restaurant Taste of Sicily was hit with nearly $10,000 in citations for reopening without a mandate to wear masks or social distance -- a decision the owners left up to customers, the Daily Caller reported.

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In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the closure of a number of restaurants in late August after citing various violations found by task force member, ranging from allowing patrons indoors to employees working without face masks.