A Tampa, Florida Hamburger Mary's, a popular chain with a predominantly gay clientele, has been shut down permanently, ostensibly because of a hepatitis A+ employee at the chain' Ybor City location. The owner of Hamburger Mary's thinks that the Hillsborough Health Department deliberately and nefariously targeted the restaurant because of its LGBTQ staff and clientele, reports South Florida Gay News.
The Health Department sent out a public warning last October and the owner, Kurt King, announced that he will be permanently closing the Ybor City location despite gaining approval to reopen. He also commented that Hamburger Mary's has been in the media constantly, which is hurting his other business investments.
The Health Department didn't issue a warning about four other restaurants in the area in which someone tested positive for hepatitis A.
Kurt also said that he's struggling to keep the two other locations open, as well as struggling to fight for payroll and to pay the bills that are being accrued. He feels that his establishment was singled out, citing the fact that over four-hundred people in Florida live with hepatitis A and the places where the work haven't been on the news or shut down. He said "I think they targeted us because we're a gay restaurant, gay-owned, popular gay restaurant." King also says that the employee being referred to has been tested negative to all strains of the disease and he has the lab results to prove it.
The head of the Health Department, Douglas Holt dismissed the claims that the Department targeted Hamburger Mary's because of its gay staff and clientele, but mentioned that that's where people would expect hepatitis to be prevalent, as he said that "the classic category is men having sex with men" is the category most susceptible to contracting hepatitis.
If, in fact, the employee in question is negative for hepatitis, the Hillsborough County Health Department can land themselves in very hot water, as they would have no reason to spread such misinformation and close down a restaurant. Hopefully King gets the justice he deserves and that other gay-owned business are not unfairly targeted.