Adachi in Birmingham (Photo: Google Maps)

Six employees at Adachi, a popular upscale Birmingham Japanese-inspired restaurant, have tested positive for COVID-19. Another two employees are reportedly experiencing symptoms.

The Oakland County Health Division, confirming a report in the Metro Times, said it’s aware of those cases.

Bill Mullan, a spokesman for the health division, said contact tracing for those employees who live in Oakland County is taking place. The source of the outbreak has not been determined.

In a statement to Free Press, the restaurant  said that after an employee tested positive earlier in August, Adachi was closed “to thoroughly sanitize the facility,” among other measures.

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The Metro Times story also brought up former employees’ allegations  that the restaurant had not  been following social distancing protocol and at least one of the owners played down employee concerns over their safety amid COVID-19.

“Based on a recent news article, Adachi management felt it was important to address and clear any concerns over our safety precautions and alleged negligence on our part regarding some former staff members who tested positive for COVID-19,” said a  statement from David Kraus, general manager and director of operations. 

“When Adachi management was informed by an employee who had tested positive for COVID-19 on August 10, we conducted an internal investigation, a review of our safety practices and closed to thoroughly sanitize the facility.”

Employees at Adachi were tested, Kraus said, and the company paid for all the testing. It  also made a public announcement on social media and a sign on the door stating what had happened.  

“There has never been a point, not one thing came between the safety of my employees or the safety of my guests,” Kraus said. 

Kraus believes the COVID-19 did not come from the premises, rather from “certain employees not following CDC guidelines outside of the workplace.”

Justin Haug  told the Metro Times he and another former employee who was not named were fired after bringing concerns to management about not providing a safe working environment. Complaints were filed with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Haug could not be reached by the Free Press for comment.

On Thursday, Kraus received and provided the Free Press with an email from the NLRB that said the case has been withdrawn. The NLRB on Friday confirmed the regional director approved the withdrawal via a letter to the employer. MIOSHA said it determined the restaurant was following regulations at the time of its investigation and the complaint was closed with no citations issued.

Kraus disputes that Haug was fired and said he quit on June 11.

Kraus confirmed and clarified some of the allegations made by Haug in the Metro Times report. 

Haug told the Metro Times that during a May Zoom conference call with staff, Adachi co-owner Kenny Koza told employees concerned about safely returning to work that they had “been watching too much CNN and wouldn’t get sick.”

Kraus said the reference to CNN from Koza was to “turn off CNN every now and then. You’re getting too much and it’s overwhelming for all of us.”

“All he was trying to say is you are just building up your anxiety by watching the news nonstop all day and all night,” Kraus said. “Take a break and don’t build up anxiety.”

According to the Metro Times, Haug also provided the Metro Times with a video showing a crowded restaurant and no mask wearing. 

That happened the second or third night the restaurant reopened, Kraus said. They didn’t see the rain in the forecast and, he said, and there were a lot of people on the patio who moved inside.

“We were caught with our pants down. We didn’t have the full process of protocol in place. We try to plan for where we are in this thing and what’s next. When that happened, we started thinking that we will need some door guys.”

Kraus described it as a “live-and-learn moment.”

Now when guests make reservations to sit out on the patio, they are read a statement indicating their reservation is weather permitting.

“If we don’t have space inside, all we can do is pack up your food and take it to your car,” Kraus said.

Adachi responded to the complaints with supporting evidence.  MIOSHA reviewed the response and found Adachi complied with applicable MIOSHA regulations and OSHA and CDC guidance at the time of the investigation. MIOSHA determined the complaint closed and no citations were issued. 

Adachi opened in August 2018 in the historic Ford-Peabody mansion on South Old Woodward. Its executive chef is Lloyd Roberts.  

Contact food writer Susan Selasky: 313-222-6872 or [email protected]. Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.  

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