A Laguna Beach restaurant reopened Wednesday following a two-day closure for deep cleaning after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.
Marc Cohen, chef and owner of 230 Forest Avenue Restaurant & Bar, said he posted a closure announcement on the restaurant’s website on Father’s Day shortly after learning that one of his employees tested positive for COVID-19. Cohen directed the employee to stay home the previous week after they reported feeling unwell.
“We had already decided that if anything came back positive we should close Monday and Tuesday,” Cohen said in a phone interview Monday.
230 Forest was steam-cleaned and sanitized early last week, Cohen said.
After receiving confirmation of the positive test, Cohen also asked other employees who worked on the same shift to stay home. On Tuesday, it will have been more than 14 days since the first employee tested positive, he said. The previously sick employee has been retested and cleared to return to work by a doctor, Cohen said.
Before the state allowed restaurants to reopen, 230 Forest’s management team decided to put the safety of customers and employees before business considerations during the pandemic.
“We would never do anything to jeopardize the trust of the people we’ve worked hard for,” Cohen said. “If you want to stay open, safety has to be number one.”
Cohen has been pleased with how essentially all of his customers have indulged his requirement that everyone entering the restaurant have their temperatures read. Anyone with a temperature of 100.1 degrees or over isn’t seated.
“The truth is most people feel safer knowing that the people sitting next to [them] have had their temperature taken,” Cohen said.
To protect customers, 230 Forest’s staff installed plexiglass and sanitize tables every time a customer or customers departs.
Although Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order for Californians to wear masks while in high-touch areas, Cohen said it’s clear that many people visiting local beaches are not observing that requirement. The main thing city and county leaders can do to help businesses avoid coronavirus-prompted closures is to enforce the mask order, he said.
“I think there’s been a large lack of leadership not only in the state but the country,” Cohen said. “We’re all in the same boat, I wish leadership would have the same viewpoint.”
Cohen added that he was happy to see security guards at the Promenade on Forest Avenue asking visitors to wear their masks while at the temporary pedestrian mall.
City spokesperson Cassie Walder wrote in a text message Monday that Laguna Beach does not track restaurants that close when an employee tests positive for the coronavirus. Environmental safety is typically monitored by the OC Health Care Agency, which has declined to publicly confirm outbreaks of the virus at other Orange County restaurants.