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Sublette Saloon temporarily closes after owners, staff catch COVID-19

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Update 11:31 p.m.: A previous version of this story said Sublette Saloon "followed all the rules and still got COVID-19." 13 WREX has updated this article to reflect that the bar did not require masks. Owner Jennifer Montantes says while the bar did have masks and hand sanitizer for all customers and employees and regularly used disinfecting agents, the bar did not require masks.

SUBLETTE (WREX) — Lee County's seeing a jump in COVID-19 cases, and though county leaders say the cases are tied to large gatherings, we spoke to the owner of Sublette Saloon, who also tested positive for the virus.

Jennifer Montantes' family has owned Sublette Saloon for five years, but she took over just five months ago when the effects of the virus started being felt across the country.

"I think it's incredibly difficult to be a bar or restaurant right now because people want to be out," Montantes explains.

She tells 13 WREX she has chronic lung and heart issues.

"But when our associate told us she had come into contact with somebody, we went and [got] tested immediately the next day and it turned out we were both positive," Montantes says of her and her husband.

Montantes says she worked on Sept. 19 and 20 before she knew she was exposed to the virus. On Sept. 19, there was an outdoor band that played on the bar's patio with about forty people in attendance, which is allowed under the state's guidelines for gathering.

But to be on the safe side, since the virus is known to spread rapidly, Lee County's Health Department has put out a call to patrons of Sublette Saloon.

"Because we couldn't necessarily determine who was all there, so we did put out a notice if they had been at the Saloon Sept. 19 or 20 to contact us," Cathy Ferguson-Allen, Lee County's Public Health Administrator says.

Montantes says she and her husband haven't returned to work since their diagnoses and they're still recovering from the illness, which she describes as unlike anything else.

"It has been an incredible struggle," Montantes says. "Just body aches and night sweats, we've lost our sense of taste and smell, loss of appetite, I mean, it really is incredibly difficult."

She and her husband closed the business quickly, which the health department commended them for, in hopes of keeping the virus from spreading and sparing others from its effects.

While Sublette Saloon is allowed to reopen within the week once everything is cleaned and the quarantine period comes to an end, Montantes say she's going to wait another week or two just to make sure to bar is 100 percent safe for her staff and guests.

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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