La Petite Grocery, a nationally-lauded fine-dining restaurant in New Orleans’s Garden District, has temporarily closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, co-owner Mia Devillier confirmed to Eater on Monday.
Mia and husband/La Petite Grocery chef Justin Devillier learned Saturday afternoon that an employee had tested positive for the virus. “There was no doubt in any of our minds that the right thing to do was close for dinner service that night, and to stay closed until all employees could be tested,” Devillier said. She told Eater the employee had not worked since last Tuesday.
The longtime Magazine Street restaurant reopened its dining room in mid May, and increased capacity to 50 percent when New Orleans entered phase two last week. “This is the new normal that we’ll have to deal with” as restaurant owners, Devillier said. She says she immediately canceled the weekend’s remaining reservations and called a disinfectant company she had earmarked for the possibility. The restaurant has since been treated, and at least half of La Petite Grocery employees have tested negative for COVID since Saturday, Devillier told Eater.
Louisiana, like most other states and cities nationwide, does not legally require a restaurant to shut down if an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. But, Devillier says, “we think it’s the ethical thing to do. We have to be transparent; we want our guests to feel comfortable. It’s important as leaders in the industry to be a role model and react safely and responsibly.”
Devillier says the employee that tested positive will receive paid sick leave per the federal CARES Act (at a rate above what the law requires, which is minimum wage), and that employees who missed shifts due to the restaurant’s closure will be paid an hourly rate equivalent to what they would have made. She also said the restaurant is currently working on establishing sick pay for all hourly employees.
Warehouse District bar Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar has also closed temporarily due to an employee testing positive for the virus, as announced via Instagram on Thursday. The restaurants’ closures coincide with a spike in COVID cases in Louisiana, with virus-related hospitalizations in the state reaching their highest number since June 2 on Monday.
Devillier says La Petite Grocery will reopen for dinner service on Tuesday, staffed only with employees that have tested negative for COVID since Saturday.
Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the city’s restaurant industry. Have a story to share or know of a restaurant that has closed temporarily after a positive COVID-19 test? Let us know.