Jacksonville Beach bars close as customers, then staff test positive for COVID-19

7 employees at Lynch’s Irish Pub test positive for coronavirus, owner says

File photo (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (Robert F. Bukaty, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – “Welcome back” signs were quickly replaced with “Sorry, we’re closed” signs for several bars in Jacksonville Beach over the weekend after reports that customers had tested positive for COVID-19.

Lynch’s Irish Pub, The Wreck Tiki Lounge and The Tavern each closed voluntarily over the weekend.

RELATED: Woman, 15 friends test positive for coronavirus after night out at Lynch’s

‪Keith Doherty, general manager of Lynch’s, closed the bar Friday night as soon as he learned a customer tested positive. He said it was the “right thing to do.” He told News4Jax that 49 employees were given rapid tests for COVID-19 that the bar paid for -- seven came back positive. They are self-isolating.

“It literally spread like wildfire. So when I found out what had happened, I immediately closed the bar,” Doherty said.

Doherty told News4Jax sanitation crews were hired for a $7,000 deep cleaning of the building, which took place Sunday. He said altogether, shutting down and cleaning the bar cost him $30,000 over the weekend.

Doherty said he plans to reopen at 11 a.m. Tuesday with hand sanitizer available for patrons and employees all wearing facemasks. he said all customers and staff will have their temperatures checked at the door.

“We can’t guarantee that people are not going to get sick because of the nature of this virus, but we’re going to keep them on top of what we can do to prevent things,” Doherty said.

The Wreck Tiki Lounge and The Tavern closed Sunday and are still deciding when they will reopen. More than 20 employees of the Wreck Tiki Lounge are getting rapid coronavirus tests.

“We were shut down for 80 days. Finally, we got to reopen. This happened, so we decided to do this for the safety,” said Fernando Meza, general manager of The Wreck and The Tavern.

Meza said he personally still feels safe going out, despite the cluster of cases, but he said he can’t speak for anyone else.

Mellow Mushroom and Graffiti Junktion in Jacksonville Beach were also closed Monday when they would normally have been open. Mellow Mushroom had a sign on the door saying “closed today for deep cleaning and maintenance.”

Attempts to contact management about the closures were unsuccessful.

The closures come on the heels of a new surge of coronavirus cases in Florida. The state dashboard tracking the novel coronavirus shows Florida health officials reported an average of 1,991 cases a day over the last five days.

Bars were permitted to reopen June 5 after the state closed all nonessential businesses in April at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida. Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said he believes the closures are concerning, but that it’s an isolated incident.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.