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Castleton's Epic Ultra Lounge caught between COVID rock and hard place

Having trouble meeting health department mandates
Posted at 11:17 PM, Sep 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 23:32:08-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Bars and live music venues in Indiana should not be packed this Labor Day weekend, due to COVID-19 precautions. In Marion County, those businesses will not even be open.

Friday night, the inside of Epic Ultra Lounge was completely empty of customers and a violation from the Marion County Health Department says it should stay that way until several changes are made.

"We do some amazing things here at Epic, we have great events but as of yesterday I was shut down," said Shauna Burnett.

Burnett is the owner of the place known for its live music on 82nd Street in Castleton. Through the pandemic epic has become a popular spot to take in live music while sitting in your car during its weekend parking lot concerts, but according to the health department, video sent to them from social media showing visitors not wearing masks and not social distancing led to Epic being shut down and Burnett slapped with a $1,000 fine.

The parking lot concerts were Burnett's idea to supplement the income of curbside orders. She says last weekend attracted hundreds. Now this weekend it's all canceled.

"Honestly, this city, man, I get emotional when I talk about it, like they've really, really been behind me like this whole time. Like there's no way you can get 700 people in that parking lot if they're not loving what you're doing," Burnett said.

Friday, Burnett was caught between a rock and a hard place. Despite serving food, Epic Lounge is not classified as a restuarant but instead a nightclub, which means it should've been closed for much of the pandemic, which was another violation.

After being shutdown Burnett had to lay off her staff for the second time this year while also temporarily losing her food and beverage permit until the new public health order kicks in on Tuesday, September 8th. But each day with no customers is painful.

"If anything, I would want not only the health department but anybody that's rallying to shut people down like me to understand that we're a business too," Burnett said.

Because Epic is considered to be a nightclub, customers cannot eat inside under the current public health order and the next will only allow customers inside at 25% capacity and they must be seated at a table.

For Burnett that is another problem because the inside of the lounge is lined with only couches. She says the gray areas combined with the complicated restrictions are making it nearly impossible for a business like hers to survive.

"And that's all I'm trying to do is just survive. I asked the health inspector, I said you know it feels like were just being set up to fail, because like, what else can I do," Burnett said.

The Marion County Health Department tells WRTV "Epic lounge" can reopen as early as Tuesday, but it must submit a COVID-19 mitigation plan detailing exactly what the lounge can and cannot do while open during the pandemic.

Since Epic is considered a nightclub but has no tables, it will only be allowed to take carryout orders unless the inside is reconfigured, or if an outdoor plan is approved.