COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Health officials issued a public health alert for patrons who had been at Room 38 last week, citing possible exposure to COVID-19.
ABC 17 News obtained documents from the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services that show they had already visited the establishment three times regarding COVID-19 guidelines -- once with police.
Scott Clardy, the health department's assistant director, said the only other inspection that required a police presence was at Harpo's.
"In the event that they were not compliant, we wanted to have law enforcement present to make sure everything went smoothly; however, the inspector who went with them found nothing wrong on that visit," Clardy said about the visit to Harpo's.
However, health officials did find violations of the health order in each of the three inspections at Room 38:
- May 4 inspection: "Discussed marking tables 'out of commission', removing chairs from bar area, guests waiting for seating, etc. This was a reopening inspection after partial closure due to COVID."
- May 8 inspection: "Dish machine fixed, discussed removing bar seating and no walk up service to the bar per Phase 1 order."
In emails between health department employees regarding the establishment, an environmental public health specialist who conducted the May 8 inspection said: "Based on this track record, I feel that it is very likely that Room 38 is operating business as usual and ignoring all guidelines we have discussed at length with management."
They then requested police be present for a third inspection.
- May 22 inspection: "Responding to a complaint that establishment is not obeying occupancy load (25% of total capacity), social distancing guidelines, and has bar seating. Inspection conducted jointly with CPD. Upon arrival, 16 people were on the patio and 35 were seated inside. People were seated at the bar. Booths (indoor and outdoor) were not socially distanced. Groups over 10 were present. Management removed all bar seating on site. Groups larger than 10 were split up on site to be in compliance. Multiple patrons were moved to different tables to comply with social distancing guidelines Multiple patrons were asked to leave until occupancy load of 23 was met. Total occupancy load allowed is 23 people in all areas combined. If restaurant is found out of compliance with phases of reopening again, further action will be taken."
Billy Giordano, a co-owner at Room 38, said that while the restaurant was violating some protocols while trying to accommodate guests, the visit from police was unnecessary.
"These violations, however, did not constitute the use four police officers to remove guests from my restaurant," Giordano said. "My staff immediately fixed any requests (valid or not) that the health department asked of us."
The May 22 inspection report refers to a complaint submitted to the health department on May 19 about Room 38. The patron had visited on Friday, May 15.
"There at Room 38, it was PACKED full," according to the complaint. "I know there are certain restrictions that are supposed to prevent this amount of people from being in there because we tried going to another place that had an hour and a half wait because of said restrictions."
However, Giordano said the guest did not take into account the total occupancy calculated by adding together the main room, patio and backroom.
"We are close to a 200-person establishment with the patio included, and were never seating more than 50 guests," Giordano said.
He also said Room 38 has been doing their best to enforce social distancing.
"We're doing everything we can to more or less survive as a business during the pandemic, but also protect our guests," Giordano said.
Read the documents below detailing Room 38's COVID-19 protocols: