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Restaurant closings spread as new coronavirus cases emerge
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Restaurant closings spread as new coronavirus cases emerge


WILLIAMS BAY Pier 290 restaurant has joined several other popular dining establishments in the region in temporarily closing its doors after employees contracted the coronavirus.

Others announcing temporary shutdowns have included Chuck’s Lakeshore Inn in Fontana, and Popeye’s restaurant, Simple Cafe and Speedo’s Harborside Pub & Grill, all in Lake Geneva.

Another bar and grill, the Owl Tavern in the town of Linn, announced it was closing as a precaution, even though no employees had been infected.

Without state-mandated restrictions to protect public health, many area restaurants since mid-May have been welcoming large crowds of visitors for dining and drinking without mandating such safety precautions as face masks.

Pier 290 announced June 25 that the Williams Bay attraction would close for 48 hours after three of its employees tested positive for the virus.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Pier 290 said the three employees had all been together for an off-site social gathering outside of work. The business did not say the employees had contracted the virus at the gathering.

The statement said the employees will remain in home isolation until released by a medical authority.

Over the 48 hours closure, Pier 290 planned to undergo a deep cleaning of its facilities at 1 Liechty Drive on the Williams Bay lakefront.

“Our greatest concern is for the well-being of our staff and clientele,” the statement said. “We will provide you with more information as it comes in and in relation to how we move forward.”

Chuck’s Lakeshore Inn also decided to close its doors after an employee contracted the coronavirus.

Chuck’s Lakeshore Inn, located at 352 Lake St. in Fontana, is a popular spot along the Fontana lakefront.

The bar and restaurant announced it was closing for three days on June 22 because two of its employees had tested positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19.

In a post on its Facebook page, Chuck’s said that while there was no legal requirement for the restaurant to close, officials felt responsible to announce the health issue with its employees and to close the business temporarily.

Three days after closing, Chuck’s owner Julie Leronimo said the popular lakeside restaurant was still waiting to receive coronavirus test results for some employees before it reopens.

“We’re still waiting for all the testing, because we want everyone to be tested,” she said. “Until we have that, we really can’t put a date on anything.”

With some employees being tested through a county-operated testing site at the Walworth County Fairgrounds in Elkhorn, and others being tested by their private physicians, test results can take 48 hours to a week to process.

Leronimo said Chuck’s was considering operational changes before reopening, such as table spacing, reduced capacity and installation of plastic screens.

“Everything is on the table for consideration right now,” she said. “We’re playing with lots of different ideas on how we can do this.”

Just two days before Chuck’s announced its closure, Popeye’s in Lake Geneva closed temporarily, saying that an employee had been infected.

Popeye’s announced that it hoped to reopen in late June.

Another restaurant to close after one of its employees tested for the virus is Holi Cannoli, an Italian eatery on Highway 12 in Elkhorn. The restaurant closed its doors June 18 to test employees and sterilize the facility, and reopened June 24 after receiving negative test results from all other staff members.

Simple Cafe, at 525 Broad St. in Lake Geneva, closed June 26 after the restaurant had been “exposed to someone that is known to have tested positive” for coronavirus.

The cafe was requiring all employees to be tested and would not permit them to return to work until a negative test result is produced, according to a statement posted on Facebook.

Simple Cafe is owned by former Lake Geneva Mayor Tom Hartz.

Pier 290, Chuck’s Lakeshore Inn and Popeye’s all indicated they were working with the Walworth County Health & Human Services Department for guidance on reopening and investigating their cases of COVID-19.

County health deputy director Carlo Nevicosi said the county routinely conducts an investigation and contacts those who have come in close contact with anyone carrying the virus. Because close contact is described as being within six feet of a confirmed case for at least 15 minutes, Nevicosi said restaurant workers are less likely to pose a risk to customers than they are to co-workers.

“I would think in a situation like this, the risk of staff-to-staff transmission is much higher than staff-to-customer,” he said in a statement.

The closures and confirmed cornavirus cases among restaurants have prompted another area eatery to temporarily close out of precaution.

Owl Tavern in the town of Linn announced June 27 it would be closing for several days to protect customers and employees, even though none of its employees had tested positive for the virus.

In a social media post, the bar and grill said none of its employees have shown coronavirus symptoms, but that employees will be tested. It was not clear if employee testing would be mandatory.

During its closure, Owl Tavern will also perform a deep clean and consider how social distancing can be better practiced inside the establishment.

Lake Geneva’s Oak Fire restaurant also new precautions against spreading the coronavirus, including new safety protocols for staff and customers. In addition to requiring face masks, Oakfire will begin sanitizing menus after each use, increase sanitation stations for customers, perform daily health and wellness checks on employees before shifts, and increase glove usage. A plastic barrier will be installed around the hosts stand.

It was not clear if Oakfire was mandating face masks for employees, customers or both.

In a June 27 social media post announcing the new safety measures, the restaurant said it will reduce its waiting list and cutting back on dine-in seating.

“Please be patient, as we will not be able to accommodate our normal volume of guests as we enter into the holiday season,” the post said. “As always, we highly value your support, and respect the decisions you must make for your own comfort and safety.”

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