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Claudia's reopens, business slow

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Claudia Sanders Dinner House reopened for business Saturday, March 28 after an outbreak of suspected food poisoning caused the restaurant to be closed for four days.

While the health department is still waiting for conclusive results as to what caused the outbreak, preliminary tests point to staph bacteria.

The health department asked the restaurant to close its doors last March 25 afternoon after receiving numerous reports from patrons who become sick after eating at the restaurant on Easter Sunday. Close to 150 people have reported becoming sick after eating at the restaurant that day.

It is estimated that close to 2,500 people ate there on Easter.

Renee Blair, regional public health director, said until the cause of the outbreak is conclusively determined, the health department has stationed workers at the restaurant to observe the employees and give oversight.

Blair said the health department is hoping to have the test results on Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

The symptoms of the illnesses include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The incubation period for the illness has been anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours. Investigators initially thought the cause of the outbreak was food but are now suspecting a staph bacteria. Staph can be live on human skin, dust, sewage, and surfaces and in the air.

Louise Riley, general manager of the restaurant, said business has been down since the business reopened its doors.

The restaurant opened on Friday night for drinks only and has been serving meals at the regular times since Saturday. Riley said, however, that many people were not aware the restaurant had reopened Saturday.

"We thought it was really important to keep regular hours," Riley said. "This has been a mess, it really has. It has definitely been a learning experience."

With the loss of regular patrons and special events over the four-day period, the business lost $45,000 to $60,000, Riley estimated.

State health department workers came to the restaurant on Thursday and Friday while it was closed and lead the nearly 100 employee in a "refresher course" in hand washing, employee wellness, food handling and food safety.

Along with attending the classes, employees completely bleached the entire kitchen since the outbreak, Riley said.

Blair said the management and employees have been cooperative throughout the investigation.

"They have done very well following regulations and the environmental code," she said. "They are working diligently with us."

The health department confirmed that a man who ate at the restaurant on Easter later died. However, the Louisville's coroner's office could not confirm that there was a correlation between his eating at the restaurant and his death.

Walt Reichert also provided information for this story.