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NJ Food Server Walks Out In Protest, Accuses Ownership Of Mishandling COVID-19 Cases

Christian Zarate walked out of Roots Steakhouse in Summit.
Christian Zarate walked out of Roots Steakhouse in Summit. Photo Credit: Christian Zarate/Google Maps

A Roots Steakhouse server disappointed by how his boss handled the COVID-19 outbreak at his job walked out in protest. The restaurant owner, however, maintains all necessary steps were taken. 

It all started Nov. 8, when an employee tested positive. Three days later, Christian Zarate quit his job as a server at the Summit location.

Harvest Restaurant Group owner Chip Grabowski, however, told Daily Voice he did what needed to be done immediately after being notified of the positive case on Nov. 8.

"All employees were notified on location immediately," he said. "Prior to to this call I was unaware of any employee having COVID symptoms or being tested. We did encourage anyone who was uncomfortable to go home.

“There was no close contact between employees that met state guidelines — less than 6 feet [of] distancing for a period of 15 minutes."

On Nov. 12, Grabowski announced that four of his 14 North Jersey restaurants managed by Harvest Restaurant Group were closing out of an abundance of caution. Those were Tabor Road Tavern in Morris Plains, Addams Tavern in Westfield, as well as Huntley Taverne and Roots Steakhouse in Summit.

Positive cases were reported among employees at each of the four restaurants, Grabowski said in the post.

Zarate feels if he hadn't taken to Facebook to express his disappointment, the restaurant and the three others that close may still be open for business.

"Everyone in the restaurant is aware while the owner Chip Grabowski is doing nothing and I mean nothing to ensure the safety of the current employees and the guests who walk into the restaurant," he wrote on Facebook, hours after walking out of work.

Christian Zarate took to Facebook to express disappointment in how his boss handled the COVID-19 outbreak at work.

Christian Zarate

Management continued to discuss the situation each day with employees during meetings before each shift, Grabowski said.

Zarate maintained he was not outwardly notified by management, who -- rather -- "passively admitted" someone had tested positive.

"They were very adamant about staying open," Zarate told Daily Voice on a phone call Sunday evening. "I understand it's a fast moving situation but I just felt morally I couldn't let it happen."

Grabowski said all employees will be tested and restaurants will be thoroughly cleaned with health procedures in place before any restaurants reopen.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked closely with local and state health officials to ensure we are following all appropriate protocols,” Grabowski said. 

“Temporarily closing our four locations is not a result of government mandate but rather a decision on the part of Harvest Group to err on the side of caution."

Harvest Restaurant Group owns restaurants in Basking Ridge, Berkeley Heights, Morris Plains, Morristown, Princeton, Ridgewood and Westfield.

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