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Harper's Brewpub faces scrutiny for night that infected nearly 200 with COVID-19

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Posted at 5:31 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 09:37:10-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A bar in East Lansing is facing the Liquor Control Commission Thursday after nearly 200 patrons were diagnosed with COVID-19 last month.

The questions and fact-finding mission about Harper’s Brewpub went on for more than two hours

Harper's owners Trisha and Patrick Riley answered the Michigan Liquor Control Commissioners questions about how this happened.

In video taken the night Harper’s opened on June 8th, you could see groups of people packed inside.

In response to the video Harper's told the commission that the executive order did not prevent dancing and didn’t clarify the rules on congregating between tables.

Their attorneys say they did follow executive order in place at the time, by requiring employees to wear face masks, but that order didn’t require patrons to wear masks as it now does.

They also explained more of what they did that night and what they would have done differently, saying in hindsight, they shouldn’t have had the DJ or the dance floor. The Rileys say they placed tables on the dance floor to try to keep it clear, as well as bolted down tables to try to keep people from moving them on the outside deck.

The line outside was another issue. Harper’s saying in the future, people not complying while waiting to enter their property will not be permitted entrance.

“We’re not only prepared, that’s what well do.” Patrick Riley said about controlling the chaos. “Being a restaurant and brewpub in a college town, we have a great deal of experience controlling people who do not want to abide by the rules”

Patrick promises everyone entering Harper’s will know they need to get used to the ‘new normal’.

“Those rules will state, that if you don’t play by the rules, we will remove anyone who violates our rules, which happen to be the governor’s rules,” He told FOX 17.

Riley said they weren’t fully aware what they could or could do as far as enforcing patron’s activities.a

The Ingham County Health Department said they visited Harper’s after the documented issues, saying they’ve been in communication with Harper’s and that current county restrictions prevent them from having the 250 people they were previously permitted to have. On the night in question, there were too many people in the restaurant even under the executive order.

The next step is to have Harper’s prepared with a plan to present to the Ingham County Health Department as well as the Michigan Liquor Control Commission

The owners of Harper’s say they are willing to do whatever is necessary to keep people safe.