The state of Oregon has fined a Florence restaurant nearly $18,000 for willfully exposing workers to COVID-19 after an investigation in which officials say compliance officers were threatened.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday announced the fine for The New Blue Hen, The Register-Guard reported.

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The New Blue Hen, doing business as Little Brown Hen Café, had been allowing indoor dining since at least Dec. 26, a state investigation found.

“The business did so despite knowing it was violating a public health order limiting the capacity for indoor dining to zero in an ‘extreme risk’ county,” the state news release said.

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The restaurant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Complaints about the restaurant led to an inspection during which, “several people – including one carrying a firearm – blocked the business’ entrance and threatened compliance officers” on Jan. 4, according to the state.

The state assigned two compliance officers and both identified themselves during the inspection and asked to speak to the owner, the state said, at which point they were threatened.

The people at the entrance followed them to their cars shouting at them as they left, officials said.

Inspectors were able to give visual confirmation of indoor dining.

Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA, imposed the $17,800 penalty, which is twice the minimum penalty for a willful violation to reflect “the need to ensure a more appropriate deterrent effect where employers insist on disregarding public health measures.”

The restaurant has 30 days to appeal.

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