MERIDEN — The city shut down JC’s Place sports pub on Old Colony Road this week after an inspection found the bar was operating as a restaurant.
Owner John Cimino said he closed his bar, located in Silver City Plaza at 680 Old Colony Road, when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March before reopening on Aug. 1. The state’s pandemic restrictions currently prohibit bars from being open but allow bar establishments to open to serve food.
Cimino said he has been serving food since reopening, but City Manager Tim Coon said the restaurant doesn’t meet the requirements to sell food and therefore can’t remain open under pandemic restrictions.
“JC’s Place has no kitchen, he has frozen hamburgers and pizzas, but he is lacking the necessary requirements for (the department of health) to allow him to heat/cook and sell this type of food,” Coon wrote in an email.
“He does not have a Qualified Food Operator working at the establishment. Due to COVID restrictions he is supposed to be serving a plated meal with drinks, not just selling drinks,” Coon wrote. “Since he can’t provide a plated meal we suspended his license, plus he is in violation for selling hamburgers and pizza without a Qualified Food Operator.”
The city’s health director was not available for comment this week.
Cimino contends he has a cafe liquor license that allows him to serve food. The license is active and expires in January, according to state records. Cimino feels like his business is being unfairly singled out among a large number of bars across Connecticut that have reopened during the pandemic to serve food.
The health department inspected the bar Saturday before notifying Cimino of the shutdown Monday, he said.
“There was no warning of any kind,” Cimino said about the city coming to shut him down. “There were two customers in the place and they told them to finish their drink and get out.”
Cimino thinks the city should have given him a chance to correct the issues before shutting him down. He plans to appeal the decision to the state, but if that isn’t successful, he said the bar will remain closed indefinitely.
JC’s Place has been in operation for 17 years, according to Cimino, who has spent a total of 51 years in the bar and restaurant industry.