Chef Daniel Wright — the owner/co-owner of Senate, Abigail Street, Pontiac and Holiday Spirits/Forty Thieves — has closed all of his Over-the-Rhine restaurants today so his employees can get tested for COVID-19.
The closure comes after one of the back-of-house staff at Pontiac informed him that they most likely tested positive for the coronavirus. Wright said in a Facebook post, "the teammember was completely asymptomatic and had tested out of caution because of potential exposure."
"The only way our company can guarantee everyone's safety and discovering asymptomatic employees is through mandatory testing," he said. "Taking care of staff & our guests is our top priority. Today we will close all of our OTR spots to preemptively test all of our staff so that we can absolutely ensure everyone’s safety. Perhaps this is something restaurants consider doing monthly or bi-monthly until we’re through this. What we want everyone to know that this is not something that we take lightly, this is not something we are being forced to do. This is something we’re choosing to do ensure everyone’s safety under extraordinary circumstances."
Wright also addressed — indirectly — the blow-up surrounding Thunderdome Restaurant Group (Bakersfield, Pepp & Dolores, et al) and how they have handled recent accusations of COVID-19 diagnosis and exposure among their employees.
Multiple employees and friends of employees had posted to social media accounts and reddit accusing Thunderdome of either not reporting or telling employees not to report cases of COVID-19 among staff.
A former bar manager at Please asked Thunderdome's Joe Lanni to comment, saying, "Thunderdome Restaurant Group can you confirm or deny employees testing positive for COVID? we’ve seen the same public statement copied & pasted by Joe Lanni but you continue to side-step the main question, which is whether or not you have employees that have contracted the virus. If you would like to dispel these rumors & misinformation, simply answer the question. We await your response."
To which Lanni replied:
Sorry for the delayed response! In the name of full transparency, I’ve spent the majority of the day talking with our team and gathering all the factual information to give you. This is a dynamic situation that as business owners, we're all learning how to navigate. Businesses large and small, across all industries, are encountering this virus, it’s not a matter of if but when. I eat in our restaurants daily, my parents, wife and children eat with me there weekly. We are being as safe as a business can be.
We have had two confirmed cases of team members that tested positive for COVID; one team member at The Eagle and one team member at Bakersfield.
WE CAN CONFIRM THAT THESE INDIVIDUALS NEVER WORKED A SHIFT while exhibiting symptoms and that the individuals reported to the Cincinnati Health Department that the virus was contracted after exposure to other infected individuals outside of our restaurants.In one case, a team member was notified of potential exposure at a second job. At that time, the team member received a same day test and result and was notified that they were positive. They notified Thunderdome and went into quarantine.In the second case, the team member's partner started experiencing symptoms, as a result this team member notified Thunderdome immediately and was taken off the schedule. That team member sought a COVID test and received the positive result. They notified Thunderdome and went into quarantine.
As this information came to light, some team members have decided to take some time for themselves and we continue to be open to accommodating those requests.We contacted the Cincinnati Health Department to report the cases and seek their guidance. The Cincinnati Health Department instructions were as follows:
1) For the affected individuals to quarantine for at least 14 days (with at least 72 hours of no symptoms).
2) Business should continue to remain open as long as we’re following the CDC and state and local health department guidelines.
Employees can apply for unemployment when instructed to quarantine by a medical professional.
Over the weekend, we've gathered the team member's schedules and we're mounting an internal investigation and notifying team members.
As mentioned previously, before every shift, every team member goes through a Wellness Check for any potential COVID symptoms and has their temperatures checked. If a team member reports any symptoms, or has a fever of 100.4 or more they are immediately sent home, and advised to seek medical attention.
As a society, if the expectation is that any business which has a confirmed case of COVID must immediately close, it creates an impossible environment in which to operate. We all know we assume some level of personal risk when we leave our homes whether it is to grocery shop or go to work. The reality is, that all any business can do, is take every possible precaution to limit risk for team members and guests within their four walls. This is what we have done to the best of our ability.