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Owner of Jersey Shore bar charged with violating social distancing laws

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(NEW YORK) — The owner of a popular Jersey Shore bar has been charged with violating Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus social distancing laws after police officers allegedly found patrons crowded into the business’ rooftop patio, officials said.

Joseph Mahoney Jr., 34, owner of the Flip Flopz Bar & Grill in North Wildwood, New Jersey, was charged by the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office with a disorderly persons offense for allegedly being in violation of Murphy’s executive order, “specifically related to failure to adhere to social distancing regulations,” according to a statement released by the North Wildwood Police Department.

“This is not a game,” Murphy said last week, referring to bar and restaurants flouting his executive order intended to blunt the spread of COVID-19. “Standing around maskless in a crowd outside a bar is just as big a knucklehead move as standing around maskless inside one.”

Mahoney’s bar was busted a day before Murphy made his statement.

North Wildwood police said officers went to the bar around 12:34 a.m. on Aug. 9 after receiving a complaint that the establishment was not following Murphy’s executive order No. 150, which requires employees to wear face masks and ensure patrons stay at least 6 feet apart.

“Officers on scene witnessed large amounts of patrons crowded around the upstairs, outside patio bar at the Flip Flopz known as the ‘Tiki Topz’ with social distancing regulations not being enforced by staff at the location,” the police statement reads. “The police department received complaints for repeated violations of the Governor’s Executive order on prior occasions before this incident and had warned Flip Flopz management of the same.”

Mahoney has been issued a summons for the alleged violation, police said.

Mahoney did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

It was not immediately clear what punishment Mahoney faces if he is found guilty of violating the rules.

“[There are] numerous examples of bars that may have been trying to do the right thing once patrons got in, but whose lines were filled with people, particularly young people, who were neither being kept socially distanced or wearing masks,” Murphy said.

Indeed, Mahoney’s bar isn’t the only business accused of violating social distancing laws.

The two owners of the Atilis Gym in the Camden County town of Bellmawr, New Jersey, were fined multiple times and eventually arrested last month for allegedly continuing to operate their business in defiance of Murphy’s COVID-19 order for indoor workout facilities to remain closed. The Bellmawr Borough Council voted 5-1 last week to revoke the mercantile license of the gym co-owners Ian Smith, 33, and Frank Trumbetti, 51.

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