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Downtown St. Pete bar 'voluntarily closing' amid complaints of rashes, inspectors find bed bug

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Posted at 4:30 PM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 07:34:14-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A downtown St. Petersburg pub is "voluntarily closing" amid reports of someone receiving a rash.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH Pinellas) said they received a complaint that someone claims they received a rash from the benches at the Pelican Pub off 2nd Street North.

ABC Action News received photos from different women who say they have had similar experiences, and rashes after visiting and sitting on the benches as well.

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State inspectors were on scene Tuesday and found a live bed bug on the bench, one dead bed bug on the bench and one live palmetto bug on the floor, which was killed.

Maggie Hall, with the health department, said they received a similar complaint in September; however, after the investigation they found the complaint was not valid.

According to public documents, the health department said the "sanitizer used to wipe down tables, stools, benches, and bar was a bleach and water solution. Bleach solution was 100 ppm.”

One woman tells ABC Action News she went to urgent care with the rash, and was diagnosed with irritant (chemical) dermatitis.

Hall went on to say that their office does not do medical exams, and can not speculate on the rashes as they are notified from health care providers about rashes.

ABC Action News reached out to the pub and received the following statement:

"We're are taking the claims made on social media over the past couple of days very seriously, and we are doing everything in our power to determine if something at our establishment might be causing this and if so, how to rectify it as soon as possible.

As a result, we have contacted the Florida Department of Health to ask for their assistance and we are working with them to provide them with whatever they might need. We are scheduled to meet with them at 1:30 p.m. today.

Our pub has been operating in St. Petersburg for 10 years, and the bench in question has been in place for nearly five years.

Last month, we received the first and only formal complaint that we are aware of from a patron related to a potential rash. The Florida Department of Health came out shortly thereafter, and we worked with them at that time to provide them whatever they needed. Following their visit, they gave us the all clear with no conclusive results or findings.

We wish Rachael and any others affected by this unfortunate situation a speedy recovery and we want to thank her for bringing this to our attention. If this matter is being caused by something in or near the environment of our pub, we will work as quickly as possible to remedy the situation and ensure this doesn't happen again.

Thank you to all of our guests and patrons for their continued loyalty and support."

Inspectors also said chlorine levels in the bar sanitizer sink were high and quaternary ammonium was a little bit low, which the pub says have both now been corrected.

The pub released another statement saying it is voluntarily closing while the issues are addressed.

“There are two issues and we are voluntarily closing the bar down to the public until those matters are resolved,” said Sean Knight, an owner of the Pelican Pub. “First, we have contacted pest control to treat the space immediately, and second, we will be replacing the entire bench beginning today. The safety of our patrons is our number one priority and we have decided to take immediate action to ensure any and all items, which can be done, will be done to ensure the safety of our customers. While we are not sure what may have actually been responsible, we want to remove any and all possibility of danger. We’ve been a part of this community for going on 10 years now and those who come here aren’t just customers to us, they’re our neighbors, family, friends and we want to make sure that their safety comes first.”