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25 Mar 2020
Police shut down San Antonio Aquarium after attraction defies closure order
By Tom Anstey
Police shut down San Antonio Aquarium after attraction defies closure order
The aquarium has since updated its website to confirm its closure

Police in San Antonio, Texas, were forced to shut down the city's aquarium after the attraction continued to trade in defiance of a public order to close in measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The privately-owned aquarium was visited twice by police on Saturday (21 March) for violating an emergency decree closing all non-essential businesses to the public as a response to the ongoing pandemic.

Local media organisation KSAT reports that the aquarium not only ignored the order but also published a notice on its website to "reassure customers that the building was clean and that they had plenty of soap and hand sanitiser."

After several warnings, the Leon Valley Police issued a citation but returned a few hours later to find the aquarium still open. The police then issued a second citation and removed around 15 customers from the building, as well as 10 members of staff. If the aquarium violates the order a third time, the police will revoke its certificate of occupancy, according to police chief Joe Salvaggio. Employees are still allowed into the aquarium in limited numbers to care for the animals on-site.

"The owner of the San Antonio Aquarium put the citizens, and now my officers in danger with his reckless actions," said Salvaggio in a statement. "The last thing we want to do is to have to enforce laws that have been put in place for the health, safety and welfare of the public."

The aquarium responded to its failure to close, with general manager Paul Mefford telling CNN that employees were following "confusing" written guidelines.

The aquarium has since updated its website, with a statement that reads: "due to COVID-19 the Austin Aquarium and the San Antonio Aquarium are temporarily closed. Please follow us on Facebook for updates. We look forward to serving our guests soon!"

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