St. Elmo violated public health order last summer, report says

People wait to go inside St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis on Saturday, March 20, 2021. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

St. Elmo Steak House, which closed for deep cleaning last weekend after learning nine employees had tested positive for COVID-19, was found in late August to be in violation of a COVID-19 public health order that mandated all bar areas be closed, Marion County Public Health Department records show.

The restaurant immediately corrected the problem and passed subsequent inspections in September and March, according to county records.

There’s no indication that the reported violation in August is related to the current closure.

According to county health records, a health inspector performing a routine inspection on Aug. 31 found a violation of the health order mandating closure of bar areas. At the time, Marion County health restrictions prohibited restaurants from offering any bar seating or bar service. Those restrictions changed effective Sept. 8, when restaurants were again allowed to offer table service in their bar areas, although bar-top seating remained prohibited.

Department officials did not immediately respond Monday morning to IBJ’s request for more detail on the violation.

According to the Aug. 31 inspection report, St. Elmo corrected the violation immediately. A follow-up inspection on Sept. 10 found no violations.

The health department did another routine check at St. Elmo on March 4. During that visit an inspector reviewed several areas of operations including the restaurant’s employee health and COVID-19 procedures, and found no violations, the inspection report said.

Details about the recent staff outbreak remain scarce.

Late Saturday night, St. Elmo released a statement about the closure from Craig Huse, president of Indianapolis-based Huse Culinary, which operates St. Elmo along with related eatery and nightlife concepts including Harry & Izzy’s. Craig Huse also is a co-owner of St. Elmo.

“We recently learned that nine employees have tested positive for COVID,” Huse said in a media release. “Out of an abundance of caution, St. Elmo’s has made the decision to close the establishment and conduct a thorough, deep cleaning of the restaurant.

“While we regret not being able to serve our visitors, the safety and well-being of our employees and our guests is our top priority.”

The media release also said no interviews would be conducted. Craig Huse has not responded to a request for comment about the August violation.

Over the weekend, the health department told IBJ that it had received a “courtesy notice” from the steak house about its decision to close early on Saturday, and that St. Elmo had “voluntarily and temporarily” closed because of its employees’ positive COVID-19 tests.

“We are working closely with the establishment to contact trace the reported cases and assess any possible exposures to other employees or customers, as well as provide guidance on sanitizing and safety measures for reopening,” the health department said Sunday.

On Monday afternoon, Craig Huse released a statement confirming that the restaurant was working with the health department to determine “how and when it will be safe to reopen St. Elmo Steak House.”

“We would like to thank Dr. Virginia Caine and the Marion County Public Health Department for providing us with invaluable guidance and best practices to safely reopen,” Huse said. “With Dr. Caine’s direction and plan, we have conducted a professional deep cleaning and sanitization of the restaurant and provided employees with the highest and most accurate level of testing.”

All employees must have negative PCR tests for COVID-19, conducted by a MCPHD facility, or be fully vaccinated in order to return to work, Huse said.

St. Elmo will not identify any of the nine employees who tested positive, Huse said.

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24 thoughts on “St. Elmo violated public health order last summer, report says

  1. How is this news? There was an issue 9 months ago, nothing has been found to be out of place since. You’re trying to create drama out of NOTHING here. I have no connection to this issue, but this is drama journalism with no substance. I expect more from the IBJ.

  2. I agree w/T.S. How about finding out details on the 9 cases? Cooks, wait staff, management, other? Any new case reports since Saturday? All they did was dredge up old news.

  3. Could we please use the temperature scans before employees enter restaurants and bars. If running a temperature, they need to get a COVID test or find out the issue before returning. Treat the sick not the healthy. Avoid people if you don’t feel well. Don’t keep it a secret. It would be amazing how quickly a lot of this spread would slow or stop if people cared enough to use common sense.

    1. Neil, I agree taking temp is a good idea, but it is insufficient to maintain safety. Symptoms occur on average 5-7 days after exposure. People may spread COVID-19 as soon as 2-3 days before developing symptoms. That means for people who develop symptoms, day 1 of exposure you are not contagious, days 2-4 you are contagious but still not symptomatic, and then your symptoms (like temp) finally show up. Then there are those who are never symptomatic. About 20% of people exposed are and remain asymptomatic, though evidence is strong that they are still contagious.

  4. Correct Headline: St. Elmo’s in compliance with health standards at time of outbreak. When out of compliance in 2020, no connected cases were reported.

  5. The IBJ is AS BAD as the rest of the media. The staff there is so stupid, they don’t realize that targeting local successful businesses with misleading clickbait is bad for their newspaper.

  6. I agree with the comments on why is this news. So many businesses have been dealing with the COVID issues effecting staff and why the IBJ chooses to single out a long standing pillar of community restaurants is beyond me. I’ve considered dropping my 30+ year subscription to the IBJ and this will certainly be a reason if this continues. IBJ should be PRO-Business without this kind of drama.

  7. After reading the story, I was planning to comment, but everyone on here is spot on. No need for me to jump in! New headline for the author, “St. Elmo’s closed down in March 2020 because of COVID mandated closure”.

  8. Old news, corrected ever since, but that doesn’t stop IBJ from trying to stir the pot. What was the intent of this story, other than to throw out of date shade on a venerable Indy institution?

  9. Foolish reporting. The incident in August was due to a communication error many Marion County restaurants had with the Mayor’s office on what constitutes a “bar” area. Two weeks later they were given the all clear. Why is this report even coming out, other than to besmirch the reputation of, as others have mentioned, a cornerstone of the food landscape for over 100 years in our City. I applaud the management at St. Elmo for being proactive in closing the restaurant and alerting the Health Department. Perhaps an article about how handling a business in this particular way sets the standard of how restaurants should operate during the pandemic?

  10. I agree with all of the comments, this publication is quickly becoming another subscription that is not necessary, worthless articles like this with no real value. Somehow they feel it is news to report an 8 month old non-story as if that has some relevance to the recent events. This brand of restaurants does not operate in every major metro area like many others, their image in this area is all that they have so I would say that they go above and beyond to keep guests safe. I have visited their north side location a few times and was always impressed by their attention to the safety details. I also recall reading that the Owner of the chain had a very long and rough fight with COVID in Florida, if I am not mistaken.

  11. I agree w all here. They VOLUNTARILY closed after their employees were sick to help protect the public and the families of their employees. This was done during one of the most profitable times for our city. Kudos to them. I’m sure it was a tough decision, and I applaud them for taking this step and to do the deep cleaning. The headline and overall feel of the story is terrible.

  12. Haha. You might well be right about the contributions, Jeffery R. I sent an email to Susan Orr, the author and will let you know what or if she responds.

    1. perhaps a few more dinners on the house for Mayor Joe could’ve averted this!

  13. Please email author and owners of IBJ with your thoughts. Zero facts to make claim made in article. On verge of canceling my 20+ year subscription due to this article.

  14. Disappointed in your reporting….don’t be like others just searching how to make something worse than it already is. Let’s focus on the fact they closed for the safety of their employees and guests. Like other establishments in our city….trying to stay afloat while doing what’s right.

  15. This is a legitimate story since it had not been reported earlier.

    The MISSING story is what is the restaurant doing for the customers who ate there this weekend? We did, and have not heard a thing from them, i.e. no contact tracing.

    Surprised and disappointed. Nothing on Elmo’s twitter page and the website still shows the restaurant as open.

    As badly handled and the Park Tudor debacle of a few years ago.

  16. This reporting is entirely accurate and acceptable. It’s no different than reporting the driving record of a truck driver involved in a serious crash.