MARLBORO (CBS) – A popular entertainment complex in Marlboro is facing some steep fines for keeping its gaming machines running, even though Governor Charlie Baker has not given the go-ahead for arcades to start until Phase 4 of his reopening plan, when there’s a vaccine. “We have rules in place, and we have to follow the rules,” said Marlboro Mayor Arthur Vigeant.
WBZ’s I-Team has learned the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards issued a cease and desist order against Apex Entertainment. When the arcade’s owner, Robert Walker, appealed, it was denied.
“You have some casinos are open, to a certain extent, but arcades are not. OK, that seems kind of arbitrary,” said Mike DeGrandis, an attorney with the New Civil Liberties Alliance. He filed a lawsuit against Governor Baker on behalf of Walker and other Massachusetts businesses. The case, set to go before the state’s highest court in September, argues Baker never had the authority to shut businesses down, or force pandemic restrictions on places like Apex, which now faces a $300 fine every day it stays open.
“The governor decided, I’m going make this an unlawful business,” said DeGrandis. “And I’m going to make his reopening contingent upon an uncertain event. What if there never is a treatment or vaccine?”
Another business Walker owns is also under scrutiny. “I have an auto-immune disease, so I follow the guidelines, I listen to the experts,” said Colleen Doherty, a former server at Evviva Trattoria, one of Walker’s restaurants near the arcade. She said her manager assigned her to serve customers at tables inside the restaurant before Phase 3 had kicked in, back when restaurants were limited to outdoor service.
When the I-Team asked the company about that, Evviva Trattoria COO Marcie Day sent a statement. “As has always been the case, Evviva Trattoria’s first priority is the health and safety of our employees and guests. Since the reopening of our dine-in service in June, our dedicated management team and staff have endeavored for full compliance with the Governor’s Executive Orders and have worked collaboratively with local health officials in furtherance of that goal. We proudly stand by our record in the operation of our Marlborough location and all of our locations in the Commonwealth.”
The Marlboro Health Department received seven complaints against the restaurant since June 6. One mentioned “a bartender not wearing a mask”. Another said there was “seating above six per table”. When the health director followed up on the complaints, he said he did not find any violations during his inspections.
The I-Team checked both businesses, and found one restaurant employee not wearing a mask for a short time, with everyone else at the restaurant in compliance. At the arcade, the I-Team found groups of customers playing games, and an employee playing without a mask.
If inspectors find Apex open for three days in a row, state officials plan to file an injunction forcing it to close. “We need to work with them, and make sure that everyone stays safe, but they can’t open before their time,” Mayor Vigeant said. The state designated Marlboro one of its coronavirus “hot spots”, and has set up free testing sites for residents.