Stage House Re-Opens; At Least Four Employees Test Positive For Virus

The Stage House Tavern on Amwell Road reopened October 28, nearly two weeks after closing after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

In that time, another three employees tested positive for the virus, and a fifth is awaiting test results after having tested positive and negative.

Two of teh affected employees live in Somerset County, while three live in Middlesex County, said Somerset County Health Department spokesman Nathan Rudy.

The Stage House has also begun a new procedure for take-out orders.

The restaurant employee who triggered the shutdown worked on October 14, then woke up with “a slight cough” on October 15, restaurant general manager Donald “Junior” Erickson said.

He said the employee contacted him, and went for a test later on the 15th.

The employee was showing “no symptoms” while working on October 14, Erickson said.

The restaurant management was told of the positive test result the night of October 17, Erickson said.

“But anyone who worked with this employee on that Wednesday we did not have on the property,” he said.

The restaurant was open on Sunday, October 18, but when it closed for the evening, it did not re-open until October 28.

“We followed the heath department regulation to a ‘T,'” Erickson said.

Erickson said the restaurant posted about the incident to its web site and Facebook page “because we care about our community.”

Stage House employees then contacted anyone who had made reservations between October 14 and 19, to tell them about the positive test results, Erickson said.

“Everyone was very thankful we called,” he said.

Rudy said more than 200 customers were contacted.

The Stage House has more than 100 employees, and “every single employee went for testing,” Erickson said.

With its re-opening, Stage House has initiated a new “contactless ordering” procedure for takeout. All orders will be made and paid for online, and will be picked up curbside.

The restaurant’s bar and indoor dining hours are noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.mm. Sundays.

Take-out hours are noon to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sundays.

Governor Phil Murphy issued an Executive Order in September allowing the resumption of indoor dining in bars and restaurants. That Order included a number of restrictions, however.

Among the state requirements restaurants and bars that allow indoor dining must follow are:

  • Limit the number of patrons in indoor areas to 25 percent of the food or beverage establishment’s indoor capacity, excluding the food or beverage establishment’s employees;
  • Limit seating to a maximum of eight (8) customers per table (unless they are from a family from the same household) and arrange seating to achieve a minimum distance of six feet (6 ft) between parties;
  • Require customers to only consume food or beverages while seated;
  • Require patrons to wear face coverings while inside the indoor premises of the food or beverage establishment, except when eating or drinking at their table;
  • For food or beverage establishments with table service, require that customers be seated in order to place orders;
  • For food or beverage establishments with table service, require that wait staff bring food or beverages to seated customers; and
  • Keep doors and windows open where possible and utilize fans to improve ventilation.
  • Per Executive Order No. 183, smoking, including vaping, is permitted indoors only when otherwise permitted by State law.

Additionally, those establishments must:

  • Require employees to wash and/or sanitize their hands when entering the food or beverage establishment;
  • Conduct daily health checks (e.g. temperature screening and/or symptom checking) of employees safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations;
  • Require employees with symptoms of COVID-19 be sent home;
  • Require all employees to wear face coverings, except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, or if it would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task (i.e. cooks that work near open flames);
  • Provide all employees with face coverings free of charge;
  • Provide employees break time for repeated hand-washing throughout the workday; and
  • Provide materials such as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to staff.

The national Centers for Disease Control has also published guidelines for establishments offering indoor dining. Those include:

  • Encouraging employees to stay home when sick
  • Wash their hands frequently and wear face masks
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and discourage sharing of objects that are difficult to clean or sanitize.
  • Make sure ventilation systems are working properly
  • Make sure there’s at least six feet between tables
  • Close shared spaces.

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