Local bars work to keep people safe from COVID-19

This comes as one Westport bar is temporarily shut down from a COVID-19 outbreak
Posted at 7:32 AM, Sep 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-20 19:26:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bars in Kansas City, Missouri are open for business. But not only are they worrying about keeping their doors open, they also want to protect everyone from COVID-19 exposure.

"We made a lot of promises to them (employees) that they would be safe and so far, we have been very successful,"said Zach Williams, general manager of Julep in Westport.

Julep is a whole new bar because of the pandemic. Everything has moved outside with people sitting more than six feet apart and customers only being allowed to sit in groups of six.

"So far, we have had zero cases, we have had zero complaints," said Williams.

But, his neighbor isn't so lucky.

Westport Ale House is temporarily closed. The KCMO Health Department said in the last month, eight people have tested positive for COVID-19. They pulled their food permit as they felt they were not provided complete information about an August COVID-19 outbreak.

The health department said on September 9th, they visited the bar after receiving complaints about mask and capacity violations. That day, they were told of two employees that were COVID-19 positive. Now, that number is at eight. The first employee tested positive on August 19th.

It’s unclear if those employees continued to work after being exposed but while awaiting test results, when they could have been transmitting coronavirus.

Westport Ale House stayed opened after the visit from the KCMO Health Department.

Williams said he heard about this outbreak and started to call his employees.

"I immediately started to ask every employee have you been there. People around here will tell you they are all friends. So, we make sure that if you have hung out with anyone at those places you have to get tested before you come back," said Williams.

An owner with Ale House told 41 Action News that this is a misunderstanding and that "no one ever worked that felt bad or tested positive."

When it comes to running a bar, one local owner said if you want to stay open, safety must be the top priority.

"Putting hospitality first and putting guests first and your employees first, just being very cautious of that short-term dollar is not worth the long-term consequences of industry being shut down," said Jill Cockson, Owner of Swordfish Tom's.

A shutdown Cockson and others do not want to see again.

"My biggest concern is hoping that everyone in the service business industry just works hard to maintain standards so we don't go through a second shutdown," said Cockson.

"You have to be vigilant and make sure that you are doing it for yourself and your health and the health of everyone else who comes in," said Williams.

Ale House owners provided 41 Action News with their timelineabout the August COVID-19 outbreak. They also said all their employees are being tested and once they get all the test results back, they will work with the health department on a reopening plan.