COVID-19 Task Force shuts down 2 Garapan bars

Torres asks task force to create sub task force for enforcement

The Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force shut down two bars in Garapan over the weekend for allegedly not observing social distancing within the establishments in violation of the Task Force’s directives.

This developed as Gov. Ralph DLG Torres disclosed at a radio news briefing yesterday that he asked the COVID-19 Task Force to create a sub task force for enforcement.

At the same news briefing, Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco director David Maratita, who is a member of the COVID-19 Task Force, revealed that they did issue out citations to shut down for one month two bars that are frequented by customers.

Maratita refused to name the bars as they are currently in communication with COVID-19 Task force chair Warren Villagomez in trying to fix whatever problem they’d had over the weekend.

Maratita said the main violation was there was no social distancing within the establishments.

Torres said this week they will be monitoring compliance with COVID-19 Task Force’s directives.

Torres said he asked the enforcement team to go out not for the purpose of finding ways to give the community members or businesses citations, but to make sure they continue to abide with the directives.

“At the end of the day, we’re fighting a pandemic together,” he said.

Torres said for those that continue to abide by the directives, he is thankful to them for doing a great job.

He said those who are in violation they have to reconsider because when the task force comes in and give them citation or shut them down that’s a whole different procedure that they have to go through in order for that establishment to open up.

Torres also asked everyone to continue to pray for the CNMI’s “brothers and sisters in Guam” who are “currently going through some very difficult times not just [because of] COVID-19, but all those families that are affected one way or another.”

The governor said Guam has helped the CNMI from the beginning with this pandemic and that he will continue to have a working relationship with Guam Gov. Lou A. Leon Guerrero and the U.S. territory’s leadership.

“As brothers and sisters no matter what, I would still want to help each other. So if there’s any way that we can help our brothers and sisters in Guam and continue to pray for their wellbeing as we move and address here on the island, would be greatly appreciated,” he said.

Maratita said the agencies assigned to enforce the emergency directives are going out there in the field, making sure that businesses are complying with the directives that are given to safe guard the community.

“So I commend all the other agencies for doing their due diligence and responsibility out there, making sure that the community is safeguarded by this virus,” Maratita said.

On updates on the sub task force that gone out since Monday, Maratita said they want to make sure that establishments are not complacent with their responsibilities in enforcing the directives.

“So we give them warning at the first visit if they do have any violations with the directives,” Maratita said.

He said during second visit and they still don’t correct the infractions, then that’s when they issue them the citation.

“So yes, we do give them fair warning on the first visit, just to make sure that they picks up whatever that needs to be fixed regarding compliance measures,” Maratita said.

He said they did warn several establishments Monday, but that most of the establishments that they visited that day, bars, restaurant, and retail stores are in compliance.

According to the directives, Maratita said the two bars were shut down for one month and that’s the penalty as there is no monetary fines for this violation.

“Just a business closure for a period of one month for the first offense. They were issued warnings, but those warnings are not heeded. And that’s how it led to the shutdown of the business,” he said.

“Two shutdowns were made just to safeguard the community because we know we cannot condone those violations because there’s still people out there that are not tested,” he said.

Villagomez said when they first put our their directives they provided ample education materials and mechanisms to follow.

Villagomez said Maratita’s team provided many verbal warnings as well as onsite visits.

The warning was not adhered so that’s how it was promoted to closure.

“The one month shutdown is still effect. So That’s my message,” said Villagomez as he encouraged everyone that’s operating businesses to take their notice and enforcement visits seriously because this is the only way the CNMI can get through this pandemic.

“We have the enforcement group that are going around daily, in late evenings. Now that we have the 9pm closing time, 10pm curfew, it also provides better time for our people to wind down and start heading home,” he said.

Villagomez said he does not want to name the two bars because he needs to look at the report and see how can the task force assist and properly guide them so they will not be repeat offenders.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
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