UPDATE: The number of people who have reported illnesses after visiting River Drifters Bar & Grill has grown to 76 patrons and 10 employees, according to the Hamilton County Health Department.
ORIGINAL STORY: At least 47 people reported illnesses after visiting River Drifters Bar & Grill along Suck Creek Road in Chattanooga, according to the Hamilton County Health Department.
Noravirus, a viral infection, is believed to be the culprit, co-owner Charlie Eich said. The health department is currently investigating and has not confirmed that information. Eich believes a well the company uses collapsed and became contaminated.
"On a personal note, we are truly sorry to those who may have contracted this virus," Eich wrote in a statement. "It hit my family too and it was no fun. This was not from poor practices in our restaurant, it just happened."
Wife and husband co-owners Renee and Charlie Eichs have worked with the health department to sanitize the restaurant and ensure all bacteria has been killed, Charlie Eich said.
There are contractors installing a new well today, and the couple bought an additional water filtration system. In total, the restaurant is making $15,000 in renovations to ensure nothing like the outbreak occurs again.
"Our water will be of a higher quality than the city water when we're done," Charlie Eich said. "That's no joke. We'll have a chlorinator."
The restaurant has remained open and hopes to have everything back to normal in the next 48 hours.
Employees are washing dishes in a food truck Renee Eich takes to the Chattanooga Market every weekend until the new well is installed. They are using alternative water sources in the meantime for ice and to cook.
The new bar and grill offers craft beer from local breweries, burgers and sandwiches. It also rents stand-up paddle boards and kayaks for paddlers.
"Just don't hang out with me, man, because my luck is bad," Charlie Eichs joked.
You can read the full statement from the family below:
After receiving calls of concern from guests who experienced stomach issues, my family's new restaurant was inspected by the Hamilton County Health Dept. Tests concluded the presence of a virus. This virus was likely the cause of illness both in my family, as well as our valued guests. Preventative measures took place under the direct supervision of the health department to stop this virus. We have thoroughly sanitized every customer contact point, as well as secured alternate water supply because of the possibility of contamination from this virus. My family and our employees worked directly with the local health department professionals and did everything necessary to stop this virus.
On a personal note, we are truly sorry to those who may have contracted this virus. It hit my family too and it was no fun. This was not from poor practices in our restaurant, it just happened. I can assure you we run a clean business and are not the cause of this unfortunate situation. Our last Health scores were 98 & 95. We hope you will keep us and those effected by this unfortunate experience in your thoughts and prayers.
The Eich Family