WORTHINGTON — A local restaurant recently was given a pop quiz of sorts and passed with flying colors.
Forbidden Barrel Brewing Co. had a surprise visit last week from a representative of the Minnesota Department of Health, which co-owner Cheryl Droll said Friday came about as a result of a complaint from an anonymous individual who alleged that the establishment — in one of its Facebook posts — was trying to encourage individuals not to wear face masks.
“When they (health department) do a normal inspection, they have to let you know when they’re coming,” Droll said. “But if someone reports you, they just come in.”
Droll explained that Forbidden Barrel guests and staff members were interviewed during the impromptu visit.
“We basically had gone through all the COVID-related things we had to adapt for our business, and she (health department official) had to look at all of that,” she said. “We had already gone through all the guidelines, and we felt like we were in compliance. But you never know, I guess — and we were.”
Regulations such as tables being placed a minimum of six feet apart, customers wearing masks upon entering the building and a host of other public health rules need to be followed by Forbidden Barrel and similar establishments across Minnesota in the wake of pandemic-related executive orders issued by Gov. Tim Walz.
Droll noted that Forbidden Barrel was found to be in complete compliance with all regulations during the surprise inspection. A copy of the report can be obtained via a request to the Minnesota Department of Health, she added.
“It feels pretty good,” she said of the result. “It’s a difficult thing. We’ve read through all the guidelines, and if we’ve had questions we’ve emailed the Department of Health and they’ve helped us.”
Challenges for all businesses with regard to COVID-19 have been compounded by frequent changes in requirements since mid-March. Forbidden Barrel, for one, opted to shift its business model and offer expanded food service via a pick-up window shortly after a brief closure March 18. It has since re-opened with indoor seating at 50 percent capacity, and outdoor tables have also been added.
“We’ve had so much support through this time from the city and really the region,” Droll said. “There are a lot of people who want our kind of business to stay open, and we’ve been incredibly blessed with that.
“It’s really important for the staff to be safe,” she continued. “If they’re not, you don’t have a business. And of course it’s really important that your guests are safe, too.”
Forbidden Barrel may — or may not — have been the only restaurant in Worthington subject to a recent surprise inspection. Minnesota is the lone U.S. state in which health departments don’t post food inspections online, according to the Star Tribune. Food inspections are public in Minnesota, but available only upon request.