ALBEMARLE — Harmanco’s Family Restaurant, located on East Main Street in Albemarle, found itself as a news feature of the Charlotte-based television station WSOC-TV this past Friday night and has received warning from Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration over their mask policy.
The restaurant has generated both controversy and support due to its policy of allowing its staff to work without masks, a decision made clear with a front-door sign that reads, “Our staff does not wear masks. If this is an issue, do not come in. Order thru our drive-thru window or get delivery.”
Harmanco’s owners, Kevin and Jamie Limer, have, according to the WSOC report, connected the staff’s non-use of masks with the medical exemptions granted in Cooper’s executive mask mandate, listed as “any medical or behavioral condition or disability.”
But on Friday night, patrons came out in full force to signal their appreciation of Harmanco’s and their stand.
“It warms my heart with all of the love and support that our customers gave us last night,” Harmanco’s posted on its Facebook page. “We had our first wait since we bought the restaurant. I could not believe the amount of people that traveled from other cities and counties to come out and support us. You all have my love and most sincere gratitude. Thank you all so much.”
The restaurant’s social media post generated over 150 likes and over 40 comments with a generally positive reaction.
“That report was one sided! We love you guys and are so grateful you are standing up for what you believe in and we all stand with you,” one Facebook user posted.
“It is great to know that wonderful things happen to great people,” another post read. “When the ‘news’ thinks they will ‘hurt’ business, it just so happens it helps. You always make everyone feel welcome.”
Not all the responses were in favor of Harmanco’s mask policy, however.
“It is unfortunate that your restaurant is putting lives of customers and employees at risk to make a political statement,” one user commented.
In addition to the critical attention from media, Cooper’s administration has taken notice and even reached out to the owners. On Jan. 12, Mark Benton, assistant secretary for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, sent a letter, provided to SCJ by Stanly County manager Andy Lucas, which required Harmanco’s owners to sign an “attestation” within seven days saying they “will come into compliance.”
“Additionally, be advised that violating any provision of the Governor’s Executive Order is a Class 2 misdemeanor,” the letter stated. “We plan to continue monitoring Harmanco’s Restaurant for compliance.”
Benton also sent copies of the letter to Lucas, Albemarle Police Chief David Dulin and Stanly County Health Department director David Jenkins.
Harmanco’s declined to be interviewed for this article.