LINCOLN COUNTY, N.C. — There's backlash after a Lincoln County restaurant owner was cited Monday for violating Governor Roy Cooper's executive order.
Mitchem's Kitchen opened to a busy parking lot of customers as owner Carroll Michem, who is also the chair of the county board, was cited by the Lincoln County sheriff. Now, the political group Reopen NC is speaking out against the sheriff's decision.
Mitchem says he doesn't plan to close the restaurant, even after he was issued the citation. In the eyes of the law, the restaurant appears to be operating illegally in plain sight, but Mitchem has a different view.
"As a patriotic duty, at some point in time I need to stand up, and that's what I've done," Mitchem said. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm opened permanently for business."
In response to the citation, Reopen NC is calling on people to contact the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and express their opposition. In the meantime, Mitchem's Kitchen has seen a steady stream of customers inside and out.
"You go to Lowe's and you're bumping shoulders with 150 to 200 people," said Gene Bryant, a customer. "I just don't really see the difference."
Mitchem said one customer Tuesday wrote him a $1,000 check to divide up between his employees. Mitchem says support is pouring in from around the state.
"It's been unreal," he said. "Unreal people from different counties coming in."
Some have even offered to pay his fine.
Under the current executive order, restaurants are not allowed to have dine-in customers. That could change as early as Friday, if Governor Cooper allows the state to enter Phase 2 of his reopening plan.
"We are asking folks to hang in there with us as we look at our numbers and make sure we're stable," said Dr. Mandy Cohen with North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
A spokesperson for the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office says at this point, they do not plan to take any further enforcement action, even with the business remaining open.