Austin’s popular Franklin Barbecue has closed temporarily after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the restaurant announced Tuesday night via social media.
According to a statement on Facebook from owners Aaron and Stacy Franklin, they learned of the positive test Tuesday afternoon. The employee, who works in a support role and does not interact with customers or handle food, they said, last worked at Franklin Barbecue a week ago.
The decision to temporarily close the East Austin barbecue destination for a few days was made out of "an abundance of caution," according to the statement.
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"We really apologize for the inconvenience that our closure causes, especially to those of you kind enough to have already placed orders for pickup over the next several days," the Franklins said in the Facebook post. "We’re going to use this time to professionally clean the restaurant, of course, and to look after our employees."
Franklin Barbecue hopes to be "back on the smokers" next week. After the coronavirus pandemic led to shutdown orders from the city and Travis County this spring, the Franklins closed their dining room and shifted to curbside service on March 17. The new system, which relies on advanced online ordering, has Franklin Barbecue doing about 55% of its normal business, American-Statesman restaurant writer Matthew Odam reported last month.
Aaron Franklin told the Statesman in May that there were no plans to reopen the dining room anytime soon.
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"Obviously, as soon as possible, but it’s more about the staff feeling comfortable with strangers from all over the place coming in. The stakes are so high. If somebody got sick, that would pretty much be the end of it. We can’t really risk that," he said. "I can see us opening up in maybe September, when school starts. We have no idea what’s going to happen. Maybe there’s going to be a second round, maybe there’s not. Maybe in a couple of weeks, we’re going to see a huge increase in numbers; if we do or don’t, are those numbers accurate? We just don’t have any reliable data. So, really, just like everybody else, we’re just wingin’ it."
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Texas have increased at a record-breaking pace in the past couple of weeks.
Franklin Barbecue started in 2009 as a small trailer on the feeder road of Interstate 35 before moving into its current home on East 11th Street.