GRAND RAPIDS — The Kent County Health Department has ordered a downtown Grand Rapids bar to close after video surfaced this weekend of large crowds of patrons not adhering to social distancing and other measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Arena Social Partners LLC, which does business as Social House Tavern, was ordered to close “until they can demonstrate a corrective action plan and compliance” with requirements under state orders involving restaurants and bars.
“Their lack of compliance with those orders jeopardizes the health of the community and the ability of other businesses to remain open,” Kent County Health Department Director Dr. Adam London said in an email to MiBiz.
A representative with Social House was not immediately available for comment. The business posted a message on Facebook on Monday afternoon apologizing.
“The video circulating on social media showing patrons not adhering to social distancing and safety suggestions in our restaurant is one example of where we could have done better,” the statement says, in part. “We apologize for our shortcomings displayed in the video and have implemented internal changes to ensure that does not happen again.”
The bar, located across the street from Van Andel Arena, said it would take temperature checks of all patrons entering the property in the future.
Several area bar and restaurant owners circulated the video over the weekend, criticizing Social House’s operation, which they feared would jeopardize others from being able to operate.
Kyle Van Strien, co-owner of Long Road Distillers LLC, told MiBiz “responsible operators will not stand” for a lack of safety precautions at establishments.
“Mask wearing and social distancing are not the ideal for anyone, particularly in the hospitality industry where customer experience is paramount to success,” Van Strien said. “However, it’s the only way we will be able to continue to safely reopen to the public and ease back into dine-in service.
“It’s disheartening, and frankly infuriating, to see operators who have not taken these new guidelines seriously and are not holding their employees and patrons accountable. It’s endangering every guest that walks through their doors, their team members, and our industry, more broadly.”
As of Thursday, Long Road Distillers temporarily closed its satellite tasting room in Grand Haven after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 and as the company awaited test results from other employees who came into contact with the affected person.
As well, other Grand Rapids bars have reportedly closed recently after employees tested positive for COVID-19. Michigan has gained national headlines over the past week after dozens of positive COVID-19 cases were traced back to Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub in East Lansing.
London did not say how many recent positive COVID-19 cases have been traced back to bars and restaurants, but he expressed concern about cases that are being investigated.
“Our case investigation team has been finding that a large portion of our new cases were working while symptomatic,” London said. “This is a significant problem because it puts other workers and customers at risk. In these instances, we reach out to close contacts at the place of work to discuss their exposure and quarantine instructions. We also contact the place of employment so they understand what happened and how to move forward.”
Local public health agencies and law enforcement have the authority to enforce restrictions on bars and restaurants. London said the Health Department will investigate valid complaints of crowding at bars and restaurants.
“Places found in gross violation are subject to license suspension and fines,” he said.
MiBiz Editor Joe Boomgaard contributed to this report.
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