KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - The Kansas City Health Department closed down Westport Ale House. Over the weekend there were positive cases at the bar, but Ale House stayed open until the health department shut down operations Tuesday night.
The health department knew about these cases last week, but they say there was an ongoing investigation over the weekend leading to Tuesday night’s suspension. People who live and work in the area say it’s now clear there are consequences.
After seven employees tested positive, the Kansas City Health Department is proving citizen complaints can lead to a temporary shutdown. Residents say this is a lesson for everyone.
“I just hope the other restaurants in the area take head of that,” Kansas City resident Dawn Boken said.
In a statement from the health department it says in part, “The health department has received multiple complaints about COVID-19 mask and crowd violations there. Management had also failed to provide disease investigators with complete information about the eight COVID-19 positive cases from August associated with their establishment.”
“Have respect for another person and for yourself, you know. Take care of your health,” Kansas City resident Gerardo Anchondo said.
The health department’s statement also says to stop the spread of the coronavirus, “They must protect them from preventable outbreaks, which Westport Ale House had not done. For the suspension to be lifted, Westport Ale House must submit a plan showing how they will comply with the COVID-19 order on masks and crowd capacity, and cooperate fully with the disease investigation.”
Locals say every business has made sacrifices.
“We’re all having ups and downs right now, but it’s best to keep everybody safe. We don’t want any spreading so we can get through this,” Kansas City resident James Furst said.
It’s not clear when the bar will be allowed to reopen.
KCTV5 News spoke exclusively with the owners of Westport Ale House. They say the claims that they aren’t cooperating with the disease investigation are a misunderstanding.
Since the health department sent KCTV5 News a statement Wednesday afternoon, they’ve received some more information from the bar, but there are still missing pieces.
“I feel like we are cooperating fully. We were just handed this information late yesterday afternoon. We are gathering the documents so we can hand them over to the health department,” Westport Ale House Owner Shawn Kane said.
Kane says they planned to meet with the health department Monday, before the department published information about positive employee cases.
“It’s unfortunate. I think this is telephone tag where we all haven’t had time to sit down, share information, be forthright about the measures we’ve been doing,” Kane said.
It’s common practice for Ale House to check staff and customer temperatures and ask people to keep their masks on.
Other businesses in the Westport neighborhood like Broadway Café aren’t even letting customers inside right now.
“I think there are certain precautions that we’re taking that others are ignoring,” Broadway Cafe Owner John Cates said.
Cates says it’s possible he shares customers with Ale House.
“It’s a little bit scary, yeah. We could have somebody come up and get a drink and be affected by something somebody else is doing close by,” Cates said.
“It’s a really challenging time and all we can do is know that we are operating in a way that’s going to keep our guests and our staff as safe as possible,” Snooze General Manager TJ McReynolds said.
Ale House says that’s their goal too.
“Everybody’s frustrated with the situation. We’re all trying to learn and create the best systems possible to keep the community safe and at the same time operate a business,” Kane said.
In order to open back up, the health department says they need to complete the disease investigation and the bar has to give them a compliance plan.
“We’re looking forward to continuing a conversation on how do we best move forward during this global pandemic on keeping the community safe and at the same time allowing a fun atmosphere at Westport Ale House for all the patrons we serve,” Kane said.
Kane says they plan on giving their customers a full explanation.
“Since it is a matter of public record and the community deserves to know what exactly happened here,” Kane said.
The health department said business with positive cases should follow CDC guidelines for isolation, quarantine and sanitation.