TAMPA — After nine years in Ybor City, Hamburger Mary's Bar and Grill is closing, owner Kurt King said Tuesday evening.
King and co-owner Brian DeChane had announced on Facebook that Tuesday would be the last night the Ybor City restaurant would be open. Hamburger Mary's restaurants in Brandon, St. Petersburg and Clearwater will remain open, King said.
The Facebook announcement said "the latest challenge over the last couple of weeks has proven too much to overcome" — a reference to the Oct. 24 news from the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County that a worker at the business had tested positive for hepatitis A.
The Health Department said the worker worked at the restaurant in Centro Ybor between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20, and lab tests confirmed the disease. The restaurant was closed until the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Hotels and Restaurants could inspect and approve the re-opening of the store.
In response, the Hillsborough health department received 400 calls and administered 620 free hepatitis A vaccines to restaurant patrons. King said no one, including the employee who tested positive, contracted hepatitis A from the restaurant, but even after it was cleared to re-open, the damage was done.
"It's just that it's been on the media day after day after day ... every single day," King said. He said he and DeChane didn't want to damage other Hamburger Mary's restaurants with the continuing publicity, so they thought it better to close.
"It was our pleasure to serve the entire community whether it was a safe place to come and enjoy a meal amongst friends or a place to hold your community fund raisers," the restaurant said on Facebook.
On Monday, Pinellas County health officials said a food service worker at the Toasted Monkey Beach Bar on St. Pete Beach tested positive for hepatitis A. That incident, plus the one in Tampa and a general rise in hepatitis A cases in the bay area, prompted health department officials to encourage residents who could be at risk to get vaccinated against the virus.
In particular, Pinellas health officials have urged anyone who patronized the Toasted Monkey, at 6110 Gulf Blvd., from Oct. 17 to Oct. 28 to get vaccinated.
Hepatitis A is spread person-to-person through feces contaminated with the virus, making good hygiene an essential protection against the disease. Symptoms include fever, dark urine, yellow-tinged skin or eyes, fatigue and gastric issues. It can cause damage to the liver, especially among those who already have liver disease.
Health officials say the virus is on the rise in Florida and beyond, with most cases occurring in young adult to middle-aged white men, about half of whom report using drugs.
One-year-old children, transient people, users of recreational drugs, gay men and international travelers are encouraged to be vaccinated as soon as possible. In Pinellas County, residents can get vaccinated at:
• 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg.
• 6350 76th Ave. N, Pinellas Park.
• 8751 Ulmerton Road, Largo.
• 310 N Myrtle Ave., Clearwater.
• 301 S Disston Ave., Tarpon Springs.
Contact Richard Danielson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times