St. Elmo Steak House reopens for limited seating after brief COVID shutdown; employee death reported

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reported that Huse Culinary, operator of the legendary St. Elmo Steak House in downtown Indianapolis, has confirmed the death of an employee as the restaurant doors were temporarily closed in due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among its staff.

“St. Elmos (sic) has reported a workplace fatality to IOSHA,” read a statement to FOX59 from an agency spokesperson. “IOSHA is following up with the employer to gather more information.”

Last weekend, at the height of demand for restoration from the Final Four as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is in town, Huse Culinary announced it would be closed.

Saint-Elme reopened its doors Monday evening for a limited number of places.

“We recently learned that nine employees have tested positive for COVID,” read a statement released at 11:09 p.m. on Saturday. “Out of caution, St. Elmo’s made the decision to close the establishment and perform a deep and thorough cleaning of the restaurant. While we regret that we cannot serve our customers, the safety and well-being of our employees and guests is our top priority. “

St. Elmo’s 1933 Lounge opened late on Friday afternoon after what appeared to be a thorough cleaning as waiters arrived from other Huse Culinary restaurants to serve customers.

Over the weekend, social media posts referred to the death of a longtime employee, leading to Monday’s IOSHA response and an updated statement from Huse Culinary.

“We continue to work with the Marion County Public Health Department on how and when it will be safe to reopen St. Elmo Steak House,” says CEO Craig Huse. “We would like to thank Dr. Virginia Caine and the Marion County Public Health Department for providing us with invaluable advice and best practices for safely reopening. With Dr. Caine’s direction and plan, we performed professional deep cleaning and sanitizing of the restaurant and provided employees with the highest and most accurate level of testing.

“All returning employees will either have a negative PCR test result at a Marion County Public Health Department facility or already be fully vaccinated in order to return to work safely. We understand that the Marion County Public Health Department has not identified any potential exposure risks to customers based on their contact tracing. “

Huse’s statement concludes that out of concern for the privacy of his nine employees who tested positive for COVID-19, they will not be identified.

A spokesperson for Huse Culinary did not respond to additional questions from FOX59 regarding confirmation of the employee’s death reported to state officials, to what extent MCPHD has conducted contact tracing in St. Elmo, if employees from other Huse restaurants such as Harry & Izzy’s were transferred to work in St. Elmo during the period of the outbreak and whether Huse Culinary employees at all sites would be tested, and whether more employees were tested positive since the statement released late Saturday night.

Late Monday afternoon, the MCPHD issued the following statement:

“On Saturday evening April 3, the Marion County Public Health Department was informed that St. Elmo Steak House would be voluntarily and temporarily closing due to several employees testing positive for COVID-19. Since then, the Department of Health has worked with restaurateurs to contact trace potential exposures among staff or customers, as well as to provide advice on the restaurant’s deep cleaning and safety measures for the reopening, including including negative PCR test results for personnel. before returning to work.

“The public health orders that are in place in Marion County are based on local data and global best practices, and are aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus in our community. At this time, the contact tracing investigation of St. Elmo Steak House staff has not identified any potential exposure risk to customers based on the CDC’s guideline of 15 minutes of non-exposure. masked. We continue to urge members of our community to take advantage of the essential protection offered by wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. “

The closure of St. Elmo, following a glowing CBS profile on Saturday morning, which led to the cancellation of dinner reservations on Sunday and Monday came the day after it was announced that a basketball fan ball from the University of Alabama died of COVID-19 after returning home from staying in Indianapolis to attend the tournament.

Luke Ratliff, 23, was known on the Alabama campus as “Fluffopotamus”. He was a legend in the college basketball section of Crimson Tide and was due to graduate this spring.

A search of Ratliff’s twitter account indicates that he arrived in Indianapolis on March 19 and attended the Iona-Alabama game at Hinkle Fieldhouse the next day.

On the day of the opener, he also stopped by Shapiro’s Delicatessen just south of downtown to order a takeout, which surprised owner Brian Shapiro when FOX59 told him.

“He didn’t eat at the restaurant. He walked in and had a takeout. He was fully masked, ”Shapiro said after an employee saw a photo of Ratliff and confirmed he had expected him that day.

As for claims that MCPHD undertook contact tracing to trace Ratliff’s travels through Indianapolis, Shapiro said, “I haven’t had any government official approaching us or telling me about a guy. contact tracing. “

On Monday morning, when FOX59 first asked him to follow Ratliff’s movements through Indianapolis in the days leading up to his death from COVID-19, a spokesperson for the Department of Health wrote:

“Based on a recent report, the Marion County Department of Public Health and the Indiana State Department of Health have contacted the Alabama Department of Public Health to determine if anyone ‘one in Indianapolis may have been exposed to COVID-19 by an Alabama resident who has visited Indianapolis in recent days. We conduct an investigation in accordance with standard county and state contact tracing procedures. “

A closer look at Ratliff’s Twitter feed indicates that he attended the Alabama-Maryland game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 22 after dining at Maialina in Fountain Square the day before, then returned to Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 28 to attend. UCLA’s loss to Tide on the Bruins. walk to the Final Four.

A tweet shows Ratliff and his friends at an undisclosed Brothers restaurant that day and Ratliff at an Airbnb on March 20.

Contacted by FOX59 about Ratliff’s presence at Hinkle Fieldhouse five days before his death from complications from coronavirus, Butler University released a statement that read:

“We have no information on Luke Ratliff. I understand that the contact tracing is led by the Marion County Department of Health. “

The Indiana State Department of Health also referred FOX59 to the MCPHD for information regarding contact tracing and Ratliff’s whereabouts in Indianapolis.

Dr Caine will join Mayor Joe Hogsett for a briefing Tuesday morning regarding the current COVID-19 status of Marion County.

During our Monday noon interview, Brian Shapiro said he didn’t wait that long for answers.

“It’s a concern that I had no idea he had gone to Shapiro,” said Shapiro, who said 70% of his staff had been vaccinated. “I will contact my health service representative and let him know.”

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