Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub in East Lansing is a popular 10,000-square-foot indoor restaurant with a large outdoor deck. It's now also become infamous after the health department reported that 85 cases of the coronavirus have been linked to the place. Some secondary outbreaks in the Grosse Pointes have also been linked to the bar.
How did that all happen?
Trisha Riley, who operates the pub with her husband Pat and two of their children, tells Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom that customers ignored a lot of protocols.
“We did a whole day of training, we had every staff person come in, they got all the guides from the state and local governments, we let everybody ask questions, and we had them all wear their masks,” Riley told Albom “We actually gave them masks to go home with to get used to it.”
And then the doors opened. June 8th. Not surprisingly, the crowds were large. Riley and her staff kept the place at below half-capacity, which means around 225 people.
But on the deck, they noticed customers moving tables together on their own. And outside the restaurant, people in line were ignoring markers to maintain 6-foot distances — and most were not wearing masks.
“It was a full-time job of trying to monitor (the line) to keep people 6 feet apart,” Riley recalled. “The most difficult part was they know we don’t own the sidewalk. You get a lot people saying, ‘That’s great, but this is not your property.’"
Last week, the bar announced it was temporarily closing and posted on Facebook:
Along with that response, we have experienced long lines on the public sidewalk in front of our building. We have attempted to instruct customers waiting in line to wear face coverings and practice social distancing through signage on the public sidewalk and with a banner on our railing. Our oversight of the line on our stairs has been successful, but trying to get customers to follow our recommendations on the public sidewalk has been challenging. Because we have no authority to control lines on public property, we are left with the dilemma of staying open and letting this situation continue, or closing until we can devise a strategy that eliminates the lines altogether.
Today we have chosen to close temporarily to do two things – implement a program to eliminate lines, and to modify our HVAC system to install an air purifying technology while the air is being conditioned and re-circulated. When we have finished implementing these two strategies, we will have the most state-of-the-art neighborhood venue for you to visit safely.