Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub announced in a post Monday night they would be temporarily closing to ensure the safety of staff and customers.
Ingham County Health Director Linda Vail said at least 14 COVID-19 cases have been reported related to exposure at Harper's.
According to a press release, the health department advises anyone who visited the East Lansing establishment June 12 to June 20 to watch out for symptoms.
All cases linked to Harper’s are between the ages of 19 to 23, approximately half are related to MSU, according to the release.
The increase in Ingham County COVID-19 cases reported for June 22 was the largest the county has seen since May 27.
Inspectors from the Ingham County Health Department found Harper’s following appropriate safety procedures related to employees, restaurant capacity and table spacing, the release said. Harper’s voluntarily made the decision to close.
“We know that the virus can be spread when people are in close proximity to each other and are not wearing face coverings," MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in the release. "These positive cases underscore the importance of personal responsibility among our students, faculty and staff, and taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others from the unnecessary transmission of COVID-19. This includes wearing a cloth face covering in public spaces and avoiding large gatherings. We will continue working in partnership with the health department to facilitate any necessary contact tracing and redouble our efforts to educate our community on the importance of the preventative measures we all should be taking.”
Harper’s reopened at 50% capacity June 8, welcoming customers in a line down the sidewalk for entry.
According to the post, it was difficult to get to practice social distancing on public sidewalks even with signage on the sidewalk and a banner on the railing instructing people to stand six feet apart and wear face coverings.
“Because we have no authority to control lines on public property, we are left with the dilemma of staying open and letting this situation continue, or closing until we can devise a strategy that eliminates the lines altogether,” the post said.
In temporarily closing, the post said that Harper’s plans to implement a program to eliminate lines and to modify their HVAC system to install an air purifying technology that will remove 99.4% of the COVID-19 virus — and other viruses, bacteria and mold — while the air is being conditioned and recirculated.
According to the post, Harper's has developed and implemented procedures stricter than the state's requirements for reopening with significant financial investments in completely touch-free bathrooms; however, they still feel a responsibility to do more.
“This closing will cause a hardship on many of our employees through the loss of wages that had just re-started,” according to the post. “This at a time when they are just overcoming a three-month layoff. They have rent, mortgages, car payments, grocery bills and everyday living expenses to address. But we believe for the safety of all, it is the right thing to do.”
Editor's note: The headline was updated to add the words "linked to" after the Ingham County Health Department updated The State News that while 14 cases were linked to the establishment, that does not mean they were exposed to the virus at Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub.