Chicago Coronavirus

Alinea Pop-Up Temporarily Closes After Staffer Tests Positive

AIR launched from the Alinea group late in June

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A pop-up restaurant from the group behind Chicago's most awarded restaurant became the latest to temporarily close its doors after a staffer tested positive for coronavirus.

Acclaimed chef Grant Achatz announced Saturday that the Alinea in Residence rooftop pop-up was closed Friday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.

"The employee had not worked in days due to scheduling and felt fine. All employees with direct contact as defined by the CDC were removed from service and sought testing at [The Alinea Group's] expense," Achatz tweeted. "Because easily accessible testing is currently lagging in Chicago we arranged alternative testing options and are in process of getting all contact traced employees tested. Thus far, every result is negative."

Achatz had hoped to reopen Saturday evening, but said it depended "on the pace of testing." It remained unclear if the restaurant would be open Monday.

AIR launched from the Alinea group late in June.

The restaurant recently received some social media backlash after debuting a coronavirus-inspired dish on the menu that some said was in poor taste. Achatz told the Chicago Tribune the intention behind the meal did not match the public response.

It's not the first restaurant in the Alinea group to have an employee test positive. The group announced in early-June that two staffers at different restaurants had tested positive. Staff at both restaurants were subsequently tested and no other positive results were reported.

Numerous restaurants in the city have also recently closed their doors following positive test results.

Replay Beer & Bourbon in the city's Andersonville neighborhood said a member of their waitstaff notified them on the Fourth of July that they had tested positive for the virus despite showing no symptoms. The employee was being tested "for another purpose," but was removed from Replay's schedule and did not have extended contact with other staff or guests while working, the restaurant said.

"While it is stressful knowing that someone on our team tested positive for COVID-19, as said above, we have been consistently operating assuming that it could be present, as every business should be, and taking the precautions needed to keep our staff and guests safe," a post on the restaurant's Facebook page read. "We will continue attempting to go the extra mile to support the comfort of our staff and guests, and are arranging to make testing available for staff members, as well. We will continue to seek the advice of professionals in the scientific community within our government and work to ensure that our actions are reflective of our concern for the safety and well-being of our staff and the public."

The restaurant closed at 5 p.m. July 5 and planned to reopen July 10 "allowing our management team a much needed break and to make up for time off that all of us had planned for but lost due to COVID-19 and our reopening."

Replay noted that businesses are not required to close following a positive test, but said "we have met and gone beyond what is required" under city guidelines.

Fork in the city's Lincoln Square neighborhood also shut its doors temporarily after the restaurant "had exposure to Covid-19." The restaurant reopened last week.

"The safety of our guests and staff is our top priority so out of an abundance of caution we have temporarily closed and will plan to reopen again on Wednesday, July 8th pending the staffs test results," the eatery wrote on Facebook. "We are taking the necessary steps to be able to reopen including staff testing and conducting a thorough cleaning."

Last month, Longman and Eagle announced a staff member had tested positive for the virus and the restaurant would be shutting down temporarily.

"Longman & Eagle has had an employee test positive for COVID-19," the restaurant posted on Instagram. "Accordingly, we have shut our business down, effective immediately. We will remain closed until we can provide a healthy, safe working environment for our staff and then our guests. We will reopen when we — all of us — are comfortable doing so. In the meantime, staff is quarantining and being tested, and the space is undergoing a thorough sanitation. We appreciate your patience and understanding."

Outdoor dining reopened during phase three in Chicago and indoor dining began with capacity restrictions in late-June as the city entered phase four of its reopening plan.

Some have since expressed concern over the safety of restaurant workers as reopening continues.

An employee at a popular eatery in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood published an open letter to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot asking for specific guidelines to protect servers, bartenders and other restaurant workers in the coronavirus era.

In the passionate letter published to Medium, Don Woolf, who has worked in the food service industry for over 20 years, criticized state and city leadership for not adequately addressing the concerns of restaurant employees in their phase three recommendations.

“The guidelines do absolutely nothing to ensure the safety and health of restaurant workers. Instead, they put us in danger.”

Several cities and states have started rolling back the reopening of bars and restaurants as cases rise across the country.

Chicago on Friday instituted a closure order, requiring any establishment serving alcohol to close its door by midnight.

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