Paul Sorli, owner of the Portsmouth Gas Light restaurant, said they are open for business but have reduced the area of the restaurant being used due to a recent exposure to COVID-19.
“If there was an outbreak, hands down I would close the restaurant,” Sorli said. “I don’t want to be the cause of the infection spreading. I work here seven days a week and I certainly do not want to get COVID.”
“We had a contact in the past week,” Sorli said. “It is not our first and we are handling it according to the CDC guidelines. Over the summer we had a UNH student working here who was exposed after traveling to North Carolina for a family event.”
This time, Sorli said two employees who sat side by side answering the phone were involved, one being his marketing manager.
“He tested positive for COVID, and then when we tested the other employee, she also tested positive,” Sorli said. “They are home, in quarantine. My marketing manager is doing some work from home. Both are doing well. We immediately began contact tracing to see who else might have been exposed and we did test. Testing has been a huge help to us, a game changer, because otherwise it would be hard to determine who might be sick.”
As a precaution, Sorli said they have limited parts of their operations to use only areas where no one had been exposed. He said by next week he hopes to be fully operational again.
The downtown Portsmouth restaurants, Jumpin’ Jays Fish Cafe and Flatbread Pizza, this week both announced temporary shutdowns due to potential COVID-19 exposure.
Sorli said he had a deep cleaning of the restaurant done overnight on Wednesday and has “cleaners that come in every night.”
“We deep cleaned all surfaces, tables, counters, refrigerator handles,” he said. “We cleaned everything our employees and guests could have touched.”
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Sorli said he hadn’t been requiring that back of house kitchen staff wear masks.
“They were not in contact with the public and they all live together and hang around together,” Sorli said. “Following the exposure, I changed policy and they are now required to wear masks.”
Gas Light employees are screened every day, Sorli said, adding customers are also asked health screening questions and temperatures are taken.
“My fear now is really about what is going happen in the winter,” Sorli said. “We have 120 seats outdoors and we are using heaters. The governor has approved expanding uses indoor, with barriers. That makes me nervous. Even with barriers, we are all breathing the same air. I hope we can keep seating outdoors into November. We need to find a balance. People need to work, and people want to get out. I am not sure what the answer is.”