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TownHall bar owner defies mask mandate amid complaints, COVID-19-positive employees, investigation

Owner says two employees tested positive for COVID-19
Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 17:04:17-04

CLEVELAND — As the number of COVID-19 cases in Northeast Ohio continues to rise, enforcement of mask mandates is now ramping up.

Cuyahoga County confirms it has sent out nearly 800 letters to businesses advising them of complaints regarding masks and social distancing.

TownHall on West 25th St. is one of the businesses the county has received multiple complaints about.

In fact, the City of Cleveland’s Department of Public Health showed up to inspect the business Tuesday after learning a member of the restaurant staff tested positive for COVID-19.

News 5 wanted to hear from TownHall management Wednesday about the mask complaints against the business.

After calls were not returned, we went to the restaurant and found the owner, Bobby George, was not wearing a mask.

He granted an interview but asked a News 5 crew not to record his audio.

George said two TownHall employees have tested positive for COVID-19, but claimed that was not the reason for Tuesday’s visit from the Public Health Department.

Instead, he said investigators showed up because they received a complaint.

Records show Cuyahoga County has received a handful of complaints about TownHall, which allege staff members were not wearing masks on multiple occasions and social distancing is not being enforced at the restaurant.

During Wednesday’s busy lunch hour, the hostess, bartenders and wait staff were wearing masks.

When asked why he was not wearing a mask inside the business, which is required in the City of Cleveland’s mask mandate, George claimed he had “just put it away” and was “about to leave.”

The order from Mayor Frank Jackson states if an employee or customer of a business tests positive for COVID-19, the establishment must be sanitized to the Cleveland Dept. of Public Health’s standards and if not, the facility will be shut down.

The mandate also states that bar and restaurant employees who are not wearing a mask at work will receive a $50 citation.

George told News 5 the restaurant is professionally disinfected multiple times a week and that if an employee has to quarantine, they are paid for time off.

He added if an employee came to work after testing positive for COVID-19, they would be “fired on the spot.”

The City of Cleveland released the following statement about the complaints:

"As a result of contract tracing it was determined that an employee at Townhall has tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, the City has received complaints about this location, as well as several other locations. The Cleveland Department of Public Health (CDPH) sent an investigator to the location on Tuesday and issued a violation notice CCO § 236.02(a)(4) requiring posting of maximum dining capacity and COVID-19 complaint floor plan. Townhall management has since provided documentation of sanitization.

If Clevelanders would like to report a business that is non-compliant with the Mayor’s mask mandate or the safe distancing guidelines outlined in the recently passed City ordinance No. 556-2020, they can call the CDPH hotline at 216-857-7165."