Reopening plans for East Lansing bars and restaurants are in turbulence due to a surge in positive COVID-19 cases, roughly two weeks after they could open at 50% capacity.
The Ingham County Health Department reported Thursday at least 43 COVID-19 cases linked to Harper's Restaurant and Brewpub. Now, Harper's and other East Lansing establishments are updating policies to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Data from Ingham County shows 22% of recent COVID-19 cases are between the ages of 20-29 years old, presenting more cases than any other age range. National data suggests a surge in cases among young people, with 17.3% of national cases comprising ages 18-29.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, owners Pat and Trisha Riley said county health inspectors found Harper’s following appropriate safety measures related to employees, restaurant capacity and table spacing during their visit.
“We understand that people who tested positive for COVID-19 visited our establishment as well as several others in East Lansing,” they said. “Before we re-open, we are investing in new air filtration technology as well as a virtual line management app that will help negate city sidewalk lines that we have no control or authority over.”
According to the statement, Harper’s will pay for regular ongoing COVID-19 testing for all employees and urges the city to remove public drinking areas in downtown East Lansing that lead to crowds.
All employees and suppliers had been required to undergo a health screening upon entering the building and masks were supplied and required at all times. Tables are laid out for appropriate distancing and plexiglass has been installed to separate tables where possible, the statement said.
Lou and Harry's posted on Thursday they would be temporarily closing their Grand River Avenue location to the public. According to the post, this comes after hearing so much about how irresponsibility has impacted the East Lansing community.
The restaurant will maintain curbside take-out and delivery.
"Thank you to everyone that has been apart of this roller coaster with us, we will keep everyone updated with any and all future details," according to the post.
Editor's note: The original post from Lou and Harry's Instagram account used the word "apart" instead of the phrase "a part."
Crunchy’s issued a statement Wednesday that they would provide masks as well and that all patrons will be required to wear a mask upon entry. This is not about politics, the statement said, but rather helping to stop the spread of infections and to keep staff and customers safe.
Any customer who may not already have a mask will be provided one to wear to their table.
“My staff cannot afford to get sick, and our business certainly cannot afford to shut our doors,” according to the post.
Harper’s is implementing additional safety policies, providing masks as well, remodeling restrooms to a touchless environment with social distancing banners inside and outside the building, according to the statement. The restaurant also removed bar stools for seating.
While it was opened, Harper’s closed two days a week for deep cleaning and gave out disposable glassware, menus, napkins and utensils.
“Our small family business takes its role and responsibility in our community very seriously — especially when it comes to the health and safety of our customers and team members,” Pat and Trisha Riley said. “… We will not waiver from our commitment to go above and beyond, diligently maintaining health standards and protocols to help keep our employees and guests safe.”