SALISBURY — The Dolphin Bar & Grill should be back in business by the end of the week after the Board of Health voted unanimously to reinstate the restaurant’s food service permit.

The restaurant was closed by police Oct. 10. Health Agent Jack Morris said The Dolphin was offering karaoke that evening, violating restrictions put in place because of the pandemic. The restaurant was issued a cease-and-desist order, its food service permit was suspended, and it was fined $1,300.

The Dolphin’s owner, Kevin Buswell, was also fined an additional $1,300 by Morris for allowing people to use his restaurant to host private card games in August. He appeared before the Board of Health on Tuesday night to appeal a potential revocation of his food service permit. 

“It is a public establishment,” Morris said. “You can’t use your permit to hold private games inside the establishment. The rules are very clear.”

Buswell told the board the card games were private affairs and that the restaurant was not open to the public while they took place.

“It is closed to the public and is as simple as having a birthday party,” Buswell said.

The Dolphin was also shut down March 20 after people were found entering through the back door in spite of the fact Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all bars and restaurants closed March 17.

Buswell said the eight people in the restaurant that day were employees and their families who were helping him to dispose of food that would have gone bad.

“It was all going to get thrown out,” Buswell said.

About a dozen residents, including former Selectman Fred Knowles, spoke in The Dolphin’s defense Tuesday via Zoom.

Board of Health Chairman Daniel Richard said he believed the two fines were in order.

“Revoking the food service permit, I know why it was suspended, I get that point,” Richard said. “But revoking it is a little bit tough.”

The Board of Health voted unanimously to waive the $1,300 fine stemming from the card games in August and will hold the more recent $1,300 fine in abeyance for a year unless further COVID-19 restrictions are violated. The board also voted unanimously to reinstate Buswell’s food service permit.

Buswell will be able to open as soon as today but must also provide a letter to Morris explaining that he understands he cannot offer card games and karaoke until the state moves into Phase 4 of its reopening plan.

“I have underlying health issues so I am not going to disregard the laws,” Buswell said.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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