On June 20, Yours Truly restaurants publicly announced that an employee had tested positive for Covid, adding that the Rockside location where he or she worked was closed effective immediately.
Yours Truly joins a growing number of bars and restaurants that are having to suspend operations after a staffer tests positive for the virus. Platform Beer, for example, announced to its social media followers that a Cleveland-based employee had tested positive for Covid. “Out of an abundance of caution,” they explained, the brewery was closing both the Cleveland and Columbus taprooms as well as the sour beer production facility Phunkenship. Similar experiences recently were shared by Parkview Nite Club, Buckeye Beer Engine and Sol restaurant.
Currently, there is no requirement that restaurants disclose such information to the general public, let alone close the doors. As part of its “Responsible Protocols,” the Ohio Department of Health states that businesses should immediately report an infected employee or customer to their local health department while working with that department to identify other potentially exposed individuals.
The Rockside location of Yours Truly went above and beyond the required course of action, says founder Larry Shibley. Not only did the restaurant announce the positive test, they closed the business for a full two weeks so that the full staff could self-quarantine.
“Any scares, anything we’ve had, we’ve been in contact with the health department and every action we take is in accordance with their recommendations even though they may not be 100-percent required,” Shibley explains. “We figured it’s not necessary to sugar-coat it. We try to be straightforward in our operation in general, so that was consistent.”
Not every business is being as transparent. Many operators are likely keeping that information private out of fear of losing much-needed business. Others are coming clean only after being shamed into action by social media commenters who share inside information.
“I’m sure that if it were announced that someone tested positive in a restaurant that certain people are not going to go,” says Shibley, adding that the Rockside location has reopened and is back to normal.
When David Bartulovic learned that an employee at his Willoughby restaurant Sol tested positive, he reported the situation to the Lake County Health Department as obligated. He admits, however, that it wasn’t the easiest decision to tell the world that a staffer of his had contracted Covid.
“You sit down and you think about how you want to handle the whole situation,” he explains, adding that he sought the advice of others.
Despite no obligation to do so, Bartulovic informed the public of the situation on July 2 and closed the restaurant for the entire holiday weekend.
“We thought it was a good idea to be fully transparent, especially being in this pandemic,” he says. “Being transparent during this time I think is helpful for people who like to go out and want to feel safe where they go.”
And if a diner does get sick while eating in a restaurant where the owner elected to keep this type of information private, the repercussions could be more dire than a slight loss of business, Bartulovic suspects.
“I think it would be 10 times worse,” he says.