Salt Bae restaurant in Boston closes for COVID-19 violations

The restaurant opened on Sept. 18 but was quickly placed under investigation after customers and passersby reported COVID-19 safety violations.
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Nusret Gökçe, who went viral several years ago after videos showed him sprinkling salt dramatically over meat, is expected to face the city's Licensing Board on Tuesday during two hearings.Ian Langsdon / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Within just a few days of opening, "Salt Bae" Nusret Gökçe has been ordered to close his new Boston restaurant for failing to follow COVID-19 safety standards, the Boston Globe reported.

Gökçe, who went viral several years ago after videos showed him sprinkling salt dramatically over meat, is expected to face the city's Licensing Board on Tuesday during two hearings. The restaurant's alcoholic beverage license has been suspended indefinitely, and the restaurant has been ordered to cease operations "due to the existing and imminent threat to public health and public safety resulting from ongoing and repeated failure to adhere to COVID-19 public safety standards."

The Boston location is one of nearly a dozen restaurants operated by Gökçe under the "Nusr-Et" name.

TODAY Food has reached out to the Nusr-Et restaurant group for comment but did not immediately hear back.

A sign informs that the restaurant Nusr-Et, at 100 Arlington Street, was ordered closed by the Licensing Board for the City of Boston in Boston on Sept. 27, 2020. Pat Greenhouse / Boston Globe via Getty Images

Officials said that the city received complaints the day Nusr-Et opened, according to the Boston Globe; it was alleged that the steakhouse was not adhering to COVID-19 requirements. On Boston's 311 site, which allows citizens to file complaints, it appears that five complaints were written over the past 10 days.

Two reports, filed on Sept. 18, the restaurant's opening night, describe the restaurant as crowded, with no social distancing. Photos show crowded interiors and long lines outside with no distancing.

"Very crowded opening night at Nusr-Et, tables not 6 feet apart, some parties greater than 6," wrote one person.

Another added that it was "super crowded" with "no social distancing measures at all."

A detailed report, filed on Sept. 25, described the scene inside the restaurant on the opening night.

"Many people inside (and waiting in line outside) were not wearing masks, including employees," reads the complaint. "Many tables were only 3ft apart and people were standing around the bar area without masks on. When we arrived, there was no one near the host stand, but by the time we left around 9pm, there were 20-30 people standing around the host stand taking selfies and socializing without masks on."

A man takes a selfie next to the restaurant Nusr-Et.Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A fourth complaint, filed on Sept. 19, said that the restaurant was doing a "terrible job with less than six (feet) between tables and lots of folks moving around without masks."

City inspections of the restaurant began on Sept. 19, the day after the restaurant opened. Inspectors issued a violation for failure to adhere to COVID-19 requirements, according to the Boston Globe, specifically citing the restaurant's "long line of patrons and failure to socially distance." On Sept. 21, restaurant representatives were warned of repeated alleged violations, and officials requested the restaurant's safety and security plan.

According to affiliate NBC Boston, the restaurant also did not obtain a health permit to operate.

Boston restaurants are able to operate with indoor and outdoor seating. Tables must be spaced at least six feet apart or separated by barriers like plexiglass, and employees are mandated to wear masks. Customers must also wear masks unless they are seated at their table. At the time the complaints against Nusr-Et Boston were filed, groups were limited to a maximum of six people per party; on Monday, the limit was increased to 10 people per party.

This isn't the first time Nusr-Et or Gökçe have faced allegations about their operating policies. The company has been named in nine complaints filed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), all filed within the past two years. Two cases remain open, though no further details were available on the NLRB site.