Christine Lohman


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Rather than engage in an expensive and likely fruitless legal challenge, Hardware Brewing Co. in Kendrick has chosen to pay a $2,500 fine for violating Idaho’s coronavirus shutdown order.

Christine Lohman, who runs the brewpub with her husband, said they consulted with several attorneys before opting to pay the fine.

“All told us that ... we would never win a civil rights judgment against the state or the governor, that it could cost ($100,000) and we would still lose,” she said in an email message. “So we paid the fine, as we cannot afford to have our license suspended.”

Hardware Brewing was one of the first businesses in the state to openly defy Gov. Brad Little’s March 25 stay-home order, which required “nonessential” businesses such as bars and restaurants to close unless they could operate remotely.

After complying with the order for several weeks, the Kendrick brewpub opened for business May 1. Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and several other state and local elected officials attended the event, which took place nearly a month before the state entered Stage 3, when bars could legally reopen.

On June 1, Hardware Brewing and four other businesses around the state were given the option of paying a $2,500 fine for violating the stay-home order, or having their liquor license suspended for 45 days.

As of Wednesday, the Idaho State Police said Hardware Brewing and White Water Saloon in Meridian have paid the fine. The other three businesses continue to try to resolve the complaints.

Since Hardware Brewing reopened, Lohman said, ISP has also served two subpoenas on the business, to gather information in two separate DUI investigations.

The company “has never had one single issue with ISP or ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) since opening,” she said. “But now we have three issues within seven weeks of opening ahead of the governor’s marshal law enactment. ... We believe this to be retribution.”

Despite Lohman’s claim that martial law had been put in place, it hasn’t been. The issue also came up during the June 17 AARP town hall presentation when a caller insisted that Little had placed the state under “martial law.” He hadn’t, he responded; Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who also was on the call last week to answer questions, added, “And we’ve never been under martial law.”

At various news conferences over the past three months, Little has said his response to the coronavirus pandemic typically involves a choice between a “bad” and “worse” course of action, saying his priority is on public safety. He has also emphasized voluntary compliance over mandates, praising Idaho citizens for their willingness to accept shared sacrifice.

The Idaho Press contributed to this version of the article which first published in the Lewiston Tribune.