Rockin’ Pig voluntarily closes after employee tests positive

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

By Scott Loftis and Samantha Jones

A Eureka Springs restaurant that recently reached a resolution with the Arkansas Department of Health after failing two inspections related to the state’s requirements for face coverings has now closed voluntarily after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

A new employee at the Rockin’ Pig Saloon, who had worked at the restaurant for three days, informed management on Aug. 27 that he had tested positive for the virus, attorney Chip Chiles said in an email to the Lovely County Citizen. Chiles represents Marshall Johnson, who runs the restaurant.

“Per our normal schedule, the Rockin’ Pig was supposed to be open on Thursday, August 27,” Chiles wrote. “Before opening that afternoon, we received word from our new employee that he had tested positive for COVID-19.   

“We immediately contacted the Arkansas Department of Health to let them know of the positive test and to get their input in developing our plan for moving forward. We also provided the necessary information for the Department to initiate the contact-tracing process.    

“We promptly advised all of our employees of their colleague’s positive test, that testing was available at no charge to them, and that we recommended each of them be tested.  There is no evidence that our new employee contracted the virus at the restaurant.

“While the Department did not require us to close for business, we voluntarily kept the restaurant closed out of an abundance of caution. We spent that evening and all of the following day thoroughly cleaning our entire facility, following the Department’s guidelines.  

“We will remain in close communication with the Department and look forward to reopening soon, with the health and safety of our employees and customers remaining our top priority.”

The employee who later tested positive was hired on Aug. 21, Chiles said.

The Rockin’ Pig had been a subject of controversy after local residents reported that the restaurant was not enforcing a state requirement that restaurant staff wear face coverings at all times and customers wear face coverings until their drink is served.

Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, wrote in an email on Aug. 10 that agents of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division visited Rockin’ Pig on July 2 and informed the bar’s management that the establishment failed inspection as there were employees not wearing masks, along with customers. The agents issued a verbal warning at the time, Hardin wrote.

“Agents again visited the Rockin’ Pig on July 30,” Hardin wrote. “The issues that were observed July 2 remained consistent and had not been corrected.”

In an email on Aug. 25, Chiles wrote that the Rockin’ Pig Saloon and the Arkansas Department of Health jointly entered into a consent decree on Aug. 2.

“We cooperated completely with the Department of Health, and their final conclusion of facts in the Consent Decree was accurate and fair,” Chiles wrote. “Most notably, as a result of their in-depth investigation, the Department of Health did not find a causal link between our mask policy and a contact-tracing report of two customers who came to our restaurant in the 14 days leading up to their positive diagnosis.”

Chiles wrote that there was “absolutely no evidence that those two customers had the virus when they came to our restaurant or that they contracted it during their visit.”

“Any suggestion otherwise is just flat wrong. At no time has any employee been diagnosed with the virus,” Chiles wrote in the Aug. 25 email.

ADH public information officer Danyelle McNeill wrote in an email the same day that ADH received full and complete cooperation from the Rockin’ Pig’s management team, representatives and owners.

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