Note: This article has been updated to include new information from the owner.
Kiwi’s Pub & Grill, a popular Altamonte Springs restaurant, voluntarily closed Friday after its owner learned that as many as six people infected with COVID-19 had been inside the establishment within the previous week.
“It saddens me to say that Kiwi’s will be closing temporarily effective immediately,” owner Richard Culmer wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page Friday evening. “This may seem like an extravagant step, however we are taking no chances with the health of our staff and our customers.”
On his personal Facebook page, Culmer posted an update Saturday that said since the initial report of an infected customer patronizing the restaurant, “(W)e have now had some staff exhibit symptoms” and one staff member has tested positive for the virus.
Culmer said by phone Monday that he received a link to a post with a photo of a customer in a hospital bed. The customer said in the post that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
More disturbingly, Culmer said that he has seen Facebook posts of the same person with videos of him at other bars ignoring social distancing guidelines. Culmer would not identify the patron and said that the original photo of the man in a hospital bed had been deleted. Culmer said that he contacted the owner of a bar that showed the man socializing but has not heard back.
Other incidences positive people at the restaurant were determined through unverifed accounts of contact tracing, Culmer said.
In a Sunday Facebook post, Culmer said he felt the state allowed restaurants to serve at 50 percent capacity too soon, and that “the government has done a terrible job” keeping everyone informed.
He also insured his customers that when Kiwi’s reopens it will be under guidelines stricter than the governor’s.
Culmer has initiated a Facebook group called Hospitality Owners of Seminole County for bar and restaurant professionals to exchange information about the pandemic.