On Wednesday, July 8, Veronica Champion, owner of the Historic Peninsula Inn and its attached restaurant, Isabelle’s in Gulfport, found that an asymptomatic restaurant employee tested positive for COVID-19 prior to having minor surgery.
Currently, “the employee is self quarantining and if they remain asymptomatic will get re-tested before coming back to work the week of the 20th. If they develop symptoms that timeline will change accordingly,” said Champion.
In the meantime, Champion shutdown operations and sent everyone home while she and her staff considered how to move forward.
It seems that service industry workers can’t catch a break. Many businesses closed prior to Florida’s shutdown due to “an abundance of caution,” then the rest were forced to close. Now, bars and nightclubs are on their second mandatory shutdown, while many restaurants like Isabelle’s have closed temporarily due to COVID-19 cases. The Florida Department of Health does not currently require business with positive employees to close.
Champion made the decision to continue to pay her team members during the closure.
“Because we decided to close the restaurant we felt that paying our people was very important,” stated Champion. “Unfortunately, this is not something we will be able to do if there are mandatory close downs again. Our staff are the heart of our business and we want them to know how important they are to us.”
Champion does intend to reopen Isabelle’s Thursday, July 16 after a thorough cleaning and new plan to combat the coronavirus while still creating a safe and relaxing environment for guests.
Champion says after July 16, Isabelle’s will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.
“We might open for a fifth night if the business is there to support us,” said Champion. “I sincerely hope that our guests realize how hard this is to navigate through. We hope that everyone will try to be just a little more patient and a little bit kinder in these difficult times.”