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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nine Memphis businesses were closed by the Shelby County Health Department over the weekend for not being in compliance with the COVID-19 health directives.

Brinson’s, 341 Madison Ave.; E2 Ultra Lounge, 1675 Barcrest Road; Menu Club, 6616 Winchester; Tex’s Roadhouse, 4396 Old Raleigh-LaGrange Road; TJ Mulligans, 2821 N. Houston Levee Road and TJ Mulligans, 8071 Trinity Road were shut down for two weeks, the health department said Monday.

Later, the department said three more businesses were issued two-week closure notices on Sunday: The Blac Betty, 1331 Thomas St.; Statuz Club, 4672 American Way; and Tin Roof, 315 Beale St.

While the health department didn’t specifically say why each was closed, they said each had “multiple documented violations” during inspections on December 4. All of the businesses will be closed for 14 days and can petition to reopen after December 19 by submitting a proposal on how they will correct the issues.

A message outside Brinson’s on Monday, December 7, 2020.

Over the weekend, WREG spoke with the owner of T.J. Mulligan’s, who admited they probably were not in compliance when the inspections were made. His biggest concern is that he wishes he would’ve had more time to correct the issues before forced to shut down.

“It’s not a three strikes and you’re out deal. It’s a one strike and you’re closed,” Lee Adams, the owner, said.

Both T.J. Mulligan’s restaurants, one on Houston Levee Road and the other on Trinity Road, are now closed as ordered by the Shelby County Health Department. Signs reading “this business is closed due to imminent health hazards” cover the front doors.

“At the end of the day, it’s my responsibility. So, it is what it is,” Adams said.

Adams says he believes it all started with a 3-1-1 complaint. WREG found, on November 19, someone made a complaint against the Houston Levee location, saying employees and customers were not wearing masks correctly and weren’t social distancing.

Adams says it wasn’t until November 30 when inspectors came to check out the restaurant. He says he didn’t know if they passed or failed until he saw their response to the 3-1-1 complaint a few days later saying the case was closed and the business was in compliance.

However, that Friday another set of inspectors visited both locations and saw things very differently.

“They found that customers were coming in without masks on,” Adams said.

Adams says he was told the inspectors gave them a warning and the clear to continue operations.
He says he immediately addressed the issue with his management staff that Saturday morning.
But it turns out it was already too late to apply any of those changes.

“And then four o’clock on Saturday, the inspector just came in and handed us closing papers,” Adams said.

Adams says he’s not refuting the health department claims, but says he believes there should more clarity on what calls for a closure and what doesn’t.

“I think the health department is going to do what they have to do to get their point across, and I hate that it was my employees who will have to suffer,” Adams said.

Adams says nearly 50 employees are now going to be without work for the next two weeks.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can. We’re just trying to keep employees employed and do the best we can and obviously we fell short in their opinion,” Adams said.

On Monday, WREG’s Jonee Lewis spoke with the owner of Brinson over the phone and he said he had the same experience. He said someone came to the business Friday and gave them recommendations.They had a good conversation and made the changes, but the next day someone else came in and shut them down.

He said there was no consistency.

WREG-TV reached out to Shelby County Health Department for clarity on what calls for an immediate closure and we’re still waiting for a response.

Dr. David Sweat with the health department said since Aug. 1, the department has done 2,700 inspections, 760 in restaurants and bars.

Those have resulted in 17 closures: 11 bars and restaurants (two of those were closed twice) plus two hookah bars, one adult venue and one event center.

“That’s 17 closures but we’ve done more than 2,700 inspections,” Sweat said. “So closure is certainly not our first resort. In fact it’s our last resort.”