The River Drifters Bar & Grill on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The new restaurant and paddle rental spot on Suck Creek Road opens July 2.
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Former Cheeburger Cheeburger owners open new restaurant, River Drifters

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The number of people who have reported illnesses after visiting River Drifters Bar & Grill has grown to 86 patrons and 10 employees, according to the Hamilton County Health Department.

The official count could still grow as the department continues its investigation. At least some of those who reported signs of illness tested positive for norovirus and E. coli. Two tests came back positive for E. coli with a third testing probably.

The department has not officially determined the cause of the illnesses, but the restaurant owners believe they were caused when a well collapsed. The department is using data from those who report illness to define and identify cases, according to department spokesman Tom Bodkin.

"We use all available information to try to identify the source, the mode of transmission, and exposures that cause disease," he wrote. "Our Environmental Health division has confirmed that the restaurant has developed a new health policy for their employees that is now in use, and that the restaurant is using a temporary alternative water system."

The restaurant will not be fined, but repeated critical violations or imminent health hazards may result in the owners' permit to operate the restaurant being suspended, according to Bodkin.

The owners have installed a new well and are using alternative water sources until the new system is fully running. 

The bar and grill is located along Suck Creek Road, away from the city's water system. The setting along a popular paddling location is ideal for the outdoors-minded business, but it means it has to use well water. It is the only restaurant permitted by the health department to use well water, which is allowed as long as the business complies with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation requirements. 

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.