What a restaurant should do when one of its employees tests positive for COVID-19 has become a recent topic of debate. Some, such as the ones listed below, share the diagnosis via social media and temporarily close in order to clean the restaurant and allow employees to get tested.
However, not every restaurant is taking that approach. ABC13 reporter Miya Shay tweeted that a manager at Toulouse, the French restaurant in River Oaks District, told her one employee tested positive, but the restaurant remains open “because [the] bartender didn’t show symptoms at work.”
Similarly, KHOU reports that both customers and employees at McIntyre’s tested positive as early as June 7, but the popular sports bar didn’t communicate that information immediately. The bar posted to Facebook that it closed on Monday, June 15, for “electrostatic sanitation” and will require employees to have a negative test before returning to work.
Restaurants that remain open even after a positive test will find support for their decision from the Texas Restaurant Association. Citing CDC guidelines, the TRA instructs members that “in most cases, businesses do not need to shut down because an employee contracts COVID-19.”
The association does note that anyone who came into “close contact” with the infected person should self-quarantine for 14-days from the last date of contact. Those instructions imply that a restaurant operating with one kitchen crew may have to close if an infected cook works in close proximity to others on the line.
With the number of Texans hospitalized with the disease on the rise, at least once branch of the state government has indicated it will act against establishments that violate provisions regarding capacity (75 percent for restaurants and 50-percent for bars), social distancing, wearing masks or other forms of PPE, and using hand sanitizer. The TABC issued a press release on Monday stating that it will increase inspections to ensure compliance; violators could have their liquor license suspended for 30 days.
Unless the government steps in with clear requirements about what restaurants should do and/or disclose when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 — something that doesn’t seem likely — diners will need to take primary responsibility for their own safety. Anyone who wants to eat at a restaurant should familiarize themselves with the state’s protocols and be willing to walk away from an establishment that isn’t following them.
Conversely, restaurants that are forthright about an employee testing positive and proactive in their communications deserve to be rewarded for their honesty. Once a restaurant has been thoroughly cleaned and its employees have tested negative, hopefully diners will feel comfortable returning. That’s the only way these businesses will survive throughout the pandemic.
Restaurants that have reopened this week after temporary closures:
Alice Blue: Closed June 11; reopened for to-go service June 15.
Nobie’s: Closed June 7; reopens June 18.
La Lucha and Superica: Closed June 10; expected to reopen June 19.
Taste of Texas closed 13; reopens for dinner June 19.
Restaurants that have announced a closure this week:
Goodnight Hospitality has temporarily closed both Rosie Cannonball and Montrose Cheese & Wine on June 16 after three employees tested positive. They are scheduled to reopen for to-go service on Thursday, June 25; dine-in service has been "suspended" for the time being.
Clark Cooper Concepts announced that Daddy’s Burgers, its summer pop-up at The Dunlavy, will be closed for two weeks beginning June 17 after an employee tested positive.
Three employees at Dish Society Memorial Green tested positive, founder Aaron Lyons said in a statement. The restaurant closed for a deep cleaning on June 16 and reopened the next day with staff from the company’s other restaurants. All employees have been asked to self quarantine and will require a negative test before returning to work.
Coltivare is "temporarily closed under further notice," the restaurant announced on June 17 via social media. An employee was in "close contact" with a person who is positive for COVID-19, so all Coltivare employees are being tested for the virus.
Spanish fine dining restaurant MAD will be temporarily closed for dine-in after "some" employees tested positive; the restaurant has been testing its employees every two weeks when it discovered the infections. It will remain open for to-go orders, including on Father's Day.
Northside brewpub Local Group Brewing is "pausing operations" as of June 18 "to allow for one of our employees with COVID-19-like symptoms to get tested and get results back." An announcement on reopening will be made after the employee has received the results.
Riel restaurant has not had any employees test positive, but it will be closed from June 18 - 22 to allow for them to get tested and to undergo a deep cleaning.
Siphon Coffee temporarily closed on June 18 after an employee tested positive. The Montrose coffee shop and cafe will announce a reopening date after it has undergone a deep cleaning and all of its employees have been tested for COVID-19.
El Topo temporarily closed on June 19 after the extended family member of one of its employees tested positive. It will reopen after employees have been tested and the restaurant has undergone a thorough cleaning. The restaurant's food truck will continue to operate.
The Politan Row food hall in Rice Village will be closed from June 20 - 22 after employees may have been exposed to COVID-19. It will reopen on Tuesday, June 23, after employees have been tested.
Brennan's of Houston closed on June 18 after an employee tested positive. It will announce a reopening date after employees have been tested.
Kata Robata closed on June 19 after some employees tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. It will announce a reopening date after they've been tested for the active virus.
Montrose bar La Grange will be closed June 20 and 21 after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. It will reopen June 22.
Down House closed on June 20 after an employee tested positive. It will reopen Thursday, June 25.
Hugs & Donuts temporarily closed on June 16 after a member of its kitchen tested positive. The doughnut shop will set a reopening after its other employees have been tested.
Comfort food restaurant Pappy’s Cafe temporarily closed on June 14 after an employee tested positive.
Midtown patio bar Front Porch Pub temporarily closed on June 12 after a manager tested positive.
El Bolillo Bakery’s location on Airline Dr. temporarily closed on June 14 after an employee tested positive. The bakery states it has tested all employees and will resume operations on June 18 with employees who have two negative tests. Its other locations on Wayside Drive and in Pasadena remain open.