VENICE — When Venice Pier Group President Justin Pachota announced last week that the first employee at one of the company’s restaurants had tested positive for COVID-19, he said it wouldn’t be the last.

He acknowledged it again Thursday when he announced a second positive test, in an employee at Sharky’s on the Pier.

“Being a restaurant that experiences a high volume of guests and employs a large staff, it was not a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when,’” he wrote on social media, adding the restaurant would be closing temporarily for deep cleaning and some “staff peace of mind.”

The first case involved an employee at Fins at Sharky’s, which remained open because the employee, who was not symptomatic in the restaurant, was removed from the schedule and sent for testing, and staff who worked with the employee were taken off the schedule as well, Pachota said.

After contact tracing it was determined that the employee didn’t present a risk of exposure in the restaurant, he said.

The state leaves it up to a business whether to shut down if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.

The situation with Sharky’s was different, Pachota said, because contact tracing showed that while the employee hadn’t worked since June 28, he or she had contact outside of work with other employees who could have brought the virus back into the restaurant.

Closing will allow time for a precautionary deep cleaning, he said, and for symptoms to appear in any other employees who may have gotten infected. So far all are symptom-free, he said, but they’re all being tested as a precaution.

The timing of their results will determine when Sharky’s reopens, Pachota said, because only staff who test negative will be allowed back to work. About 120 people are being tested.

In the meantime, he said he’s hoping to have Sharky’s food truck operating in front of the restaurant starting on Sunday, and Fins remains open.

A1 Commercial Grade Cleaning LLC, of Englewood, did the deep cleaning at Sharky’s on Friday morning.

It involved spraying a botanical disinfectant on “anything people touch”; wiping down all the surfaces; vacuuming with a backpack vacuum with a HEPA filter; and then fogging the premises with the disinfectant, owner Nic Stephan said.

Restaurant staff will do another cleaning prior to reopening, he said.

The company has seen a spike in business following the spike in COVID-19 cases, Stephan said, with restaurants in particular looking for extra-thorough sanitization.

Other restaurants have been reporting their own COVID-19 experiences, including the death on Thursday of a cook who worked at the Lucky Pelican in Sarasota.

A Facebook post said the restaurant would be closing for staff testing following the death, which occurred the day after the employee said “the only symptom they had was a hard time breathing, and that they felt good about it all,” according to the Facebook post.

“Unfortunately, things changed this morning,” it said.

Darrell’s Restaurant in Venice reopened last week after a brief closure for deep cleaning because an employee tested positive.

All the other employees were tested as well, according to a Facebook post.

Though those steps weren’t required, it said, “we felt an obligation to be socially respectful and responsible to take every precaution to ensure the safety of our staff and our community.”


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