Trumbull lawmaker, restaurateur, tells Lamont to let businesses reopen

TRUMBULL — The town’s state representative has asked Gov. Ned Lamont to reopen businesses.

State Rep. Dave Rutigliano, R-Trumbull, owns a group of seven restaurants throughout Fairfield and New Haven County, tweeted what he later called an emotional plea Thursday afternoon, shortly after Lamont announced it is unlikely that bars and restaurants will be able to reopen before May 20.

“@GovNedLamont its time to open up, thus is crazy,” he wrote while sitting in his car in the parking lot of his friend’s restaurant.

“I’m not saying we’re supposed to open up tomorrow,” Rutigliano said. “What I’m saying is I don’t think he should have said May 20. That is a full six weeks from today. We have no idea what the world will look like by then ... it may end up being true, but let’s re-evaluate on April 30.”

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Rutigliano received sharp criticism online and has since deleted the tweet.

In an interview last week, Rutigliano seemed exasperated when he described how the coronavirus crisis has affected him as a business owner.

“I’ve been in business 23 years, and I’ve never laid anybody off,” Rutigliano said. “I’ve laid off like 300 people ... What are we going to do? This has been gut wrenching.”

Rutigliano said he’s kept about 20 full-time employees on staff to handle take-out services across his seven restaurants, which include Southport Brewing Company and Local Kitchen and Beer Bar, and has brought in part-time staff at times when those employees have needed a break.

Lamont, like other governors, has said the state must focus totally on keeping infection exposures to an absolute minimum. He has extended closures and distancing orders based on the predicted trajectory of the COVID-19 disease. Also Thursday, he announced schools will remain closed until at least May 20.

“Every single decision that has been made under the governor’s emergency powers has been carefully considered for any and all consequences,” said Lamont spokesman Max Reiss. “The most important consideration for all decisions has been and will continue to be the public health of all Connecticut residents..”

Rutigliano said he’s reevaluating every week how to proceed, and may be forced to temporarily close some locations if the closures last much longer.

“The worst part about it is it has taken Connecticut 10 years to get going again,” Rutigliano said. “Last year we finally saw new movement. And then bang this stops us in our tracks.”; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt