St. Joseph County Bar and Restaurant owners react to Health Department COVID violation crackdown

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - The St. Joseph County Health Department announced Thursday that it will be keeping a closer eye on businesses to make sure everyone is adhering to its COVID policies. The announcement came amid fears the department would roll the county back to a previous stage of Indiana's Back on Track Plan. Instead, the department announced it will be on the lookout for policy violations. Bar and Restaurant owners a nd managers said they have mixed feelings on the matter.

"Restaurant business is notorious for not being easy in general," said Market Fresh and Gourmet Restaurants Corporate Chef and Director of Operations Drew Sachaus. "So, it's par for the course. We're playing a different course at this time, but we're learning as we go along."

Sachaus said he is not worried about more health department oversight because of the plan he put together in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and health department policies when his restaurants first re-opened in May.

"We compiled a seven-page plan of action and submitted that to the St. Joseph County Health Department, and we've been following through on that since we've opened," Sachaus said. "They seem very happy and pleased with our plans of action."

One bar owner in Mishawaka who declined to be interviewed said he does not think it is possible to stay in compliance with health and safety policies while operating at full capacity because it's not possible to monitor that many people. President and CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber Jeff Rea said the health department is not trying to be punitive with this move, but instead, it wants to simply make sure the policies are being followed. He said the department wants to work with businesses to find a way to make it all work efficiently and safely.

"What we need to remind people is we're not out of the woods yet on the coronavirus," Rea said. "Obviously, our cases have really spiked in the last week or two, and it's caused great concern amongst the health systems in particular. A lot of businesses are doing the right thing, and so, you hate to penalize ones that are doing the right thing by rolling back because a few aren't."

Ultimately, business managers and partners like Rea and Sachaus and the county health department said they are counting on the public to be cooperative with the policies.

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