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August 6, 2020

Gardner hotel faces fines after wedding, reception events host 500 people in violation of COVID-19 restrictions

Photo | Google The Colonial Hotel in Gardner

The Colonial Hotel in Gardner allegedly held two events last weekend exceeding Massachusetts state guidelines meant to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

City of Gardner officials said they gave the hotel verbal and written warnings the hotel acknowledged but that events exceeded the maximum allowed under safety guidelines, Lauren Saunders, the city's public health director, said in a statement Thursday. The city is issuing the hotel a civil citation with fines of $300 for both events, she said.

Nicole Moorshead, the Colonial Hotel's general manager, didn't return a call seeking comment.

Gardner officials said they received complaints about the size of a wedding at the hotel before the event took place, so they gave the hotel a verbal warning about guidelines. The Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards received complaints, the city said, so it issued a formal written warning to the hotel along with the state's guidelines, Saunders said. The hotel said at the time it would adhere to the guidelines, she said.

An official at the Department of Labor Standards said he was unable to comment on the matter.

The state's restrictions on outdoor events limit such gatherings to 100 people. Occupancy counts include workers. Capacities may be smaller: if a facility has a permitted occupancy, it can't fill more than 25% of that amount. If they don't have an occupancy limitation, the maximum is eight people per 1,000 square feet of accessible space.

The Boston Business Journal, which first reported the alleged violations, said a wedding at the hotel had 240 guests and 70 staff members. An event the next day had 190 guests.

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August 8, 2020

Being fined $300 per violation shouldn't add up to a paltry $600 for the two events. Each violation should any number of individuals over the limit for each event. This is not like a parking meter ticket. This is a health violation on the level of (or higher than) mishandling and storage of food, missing sneeze guards, or not sending sick kitchen staff home. Indeed, are we not counting the event staff in the number of people "at" these events? Let's take this seriously.

August 7, 2020

These guidelines and fines are ridiculous. Let people make their own choices if they want to celebrate the wedding with the couple!

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