SAN DIEGO — A popular Mexican chain restaurant reopened on Saturday after voluntarily closing to address an E. coli outbreak that infected at least 35 people.
Miguel’s Cocina closed its 4S Ranch location for ten days following the identification of multiple “confirmed or probable” E. coli cases linked to the restaurant. Those who fell ill reported eating at the location between Oct. 6 to Oct. 18.
At least 10 people have been hospitalized with E. coli, including four children. FOX 5 previously spoke with a mother whose 14-year-old son who was fighting for his life at Rady Children’s Hospital following his family’s trip to Miguel’s Cocina on Oct. 14.
According to the county, the restaurant underwent measures to ensure that it was up to food safety codes, including disinfecting, the replacement of all food stored in the kitchen and administering additional food handler training to staff.
All personnel were cleared to return to work and no ongoing risks were identified, officials said. However, frequent patrons of Miguel’s Cocina have still expressed hesitation to return.
“We’ve eaten there plenty of times, and have loved the atmosphere since then,” said Jerell Lieberknecht, who met his wife at the Mexican restaurant six years ago. “It was kind of hard to hear it all happen.”
The couple, who have four kids now, say that they are taking a break from the restaurant for now after the outbreak to protect their children.
“They are all really young, so we take their health very seriously,” Lieberknecht said. “Until things are beyond, until there is really nothing to worry about, we will go back.”
Nate Hague told FOX 5 that he has had Miguel’s Cocina at least a dozen times.
“To be honest, I’m a little trepidatious,” he said. “But I think right after an event like that is when they are going to be the most stringent on their control. Honestly it’s probably the safest time to go back.”
Two lawsuits have been filed against the parent company of Miguel’s Cocina, Brigantine Restaurants, as a result of the outbreak. Attorney Ron Simon is representing 15 of the 35 people who experienced an infection and their families in the litigation.
In a statement on the restaurant’s reopening, Simon said that he and his clients “sincerely hope and expect that Miguel’s has taken the steps necessary to provide a safer environment for its customers, and that the establishment will strive to regain the trust that was lost with this outbreak.”
The county is still investigating the source of the E. coli infections, but Simon added that he hopes that discovery in the lawsuit will shed light on how “such a massive and persistent contamination occurred” to help prevent another outbreak.
Some are optimistic that the temporary closure and steps taken by the restaurant during that time will ensure the safety of their patrons moving forward.
“I think it was the right thing to do,” Hague said. “I’m glad they took the safety seriously.”
“It would be great if they explained that to people when they come in,” he continued. “I’m sure folks are willing to give them a chance — sort of explaining why they should have a chance probably won’t hurt them either.”
FOX 5 reached out to the Brigantine Corporation for a comment on the reopening of the 4S location of Miguel’s Cocina but did not receive a response as of Saturday.