Covid-19 Scare: University Heights Restaurant Closes After Employee Close Contact

The employee tested negative, but the recent surge of COVID-19 cases prompted the owner of De Nada Kitchen and Market to temporarily shut its doors as a precaution

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A University Heights restaurant owner temporarily closed his doors after one of his employees reported a close contact with a positive COVID-19 case, though the employee eventually tested negative.

In light of the recent surge of cases in San Diego County, Oz Blackaller was not about to take any chances.

“We couldn’t stay open. It just didn’t feel right and it’s the best decision, even though it hurt us," said Blackaller, who has owned De Nada Kitchen and Market on Adams Avenue for 11 years. "We just plan to close for a few days to make sure my employee, who possibly could have been exposed, and we wouldn’t get exposed, and specifically our customers.

Blackaller -- who like so many other restaurant and business owners struggled to survive the pandemic -- rebranded his restaurant, which was previously known as Cueva Bar. He said closing his restaurant as a precaution after the employee's close contact was the responsible thing to do.

“Just as we’re starting to feel a little bit of momentum, obviously this thing happened. My employees were kind of sad, but they totally understood and they appreciated the fact that we were looking out for them and they were also so conscious of our customers, Blackaller said. "They were like, oh my gosh, we don’t want anybody to get sick."

A sign on the front door tells customers the restaurant is temporarily closed due to the exposure of COVID-19 by one of our staff members. Blackaller also posted the closure on social media and says response from customers has been supportive, though some patrons were confused and wonders if they may have been exposed.

Meanwhile, as COVID-19 cases surge, some bars and restaurants in California are now requiring customers to show proof of vaccination or a negative test before entering.

Blackaller says he’s not ready to go that far.

“It sounds a little bit like I’m looking into your medical records, so because of my human resources background, I feel that it’s messing a little bit with HIPPA, the HIPPA protections. So unless the government or authorities tell us you need to request proof, we will not be implementing that measure,” said Blackaller.

Blackaller plans to reopen De Nada Kitcken next Wednesday.

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