Health officials allow Billygan's Roadhouse to reopen

Salmon Creek restaurant was closed over weekend after 22 diners reported getting ill

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Billygan’s Roadhouse will reopen this afternoon, three days after the health department closed the Salmon Creek restaurant due to reports of 22 diners becoming ill.

Clark County Public Health announced the temporary restaurant closure Friday afternoon. Twenty-two people had reported symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea after eating at the restaurant Feb. 15 and Feb. 16.

The restaurant, 13200 N.E. Highway 99, will reopen at 2 p.m. Monday. Over the weekend, a third-party vendor performed a deep cleaning and sanitization of the restaurant, Billygan’s President Nakeo Stone said in an email.

Health officials also worked with restaurant staff to ensure standard controls, such as frequent hand-washing and proper food storage, were in place.

“Billygan’s Roadhouse has always followed all the rules and best practices relating to safe food handling,” Stone said. “We have been serving our customers since 1996, and to our knowledge have never had a similar problem.”

Health officials visited Billygan’s Roadhouse on Monday morning and gave staff the OK to reopen to the public, said Marni Storey, deputy director of Clark County Public Health. The health department will conduct weekly restaurant inspections for the next four weeks to ensure compliance, she said.

“We feel pretty confident it should be safe now,” Storey said. “They were really cooperative.”

Health officials suspect a viral gastroenteritis illness, such as Norovirus, is to blame. The health department is still awaiting lab results from the restaurant.

The virus was likely spread by an employee or customer who entered the restaurant, but it’s unlikely health officials will be able to determine the exact cause.

“Viral gastroenteritis is extremely common and it’s very contagious, so we’ll likely never be able to pinpoint and say this person or that person brought it in,” Storey said. “It could have been anyone who was in the restaurant.”

People who reported illness recovered in about 27 hours, without needing medical care. Because viral gastroenteritis is so common, other people may have gotten ill and didn’t report it to the health department, Storey said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.