Chattanooga pizza parlor bans customer after 2020 COVID-19 exposure
File photo by Carlina Teteris via Moment via Getty Images.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WTVC) — An August visit to the popular restaurant the Mellow Mushroom is causing consequences for one regular months later.

He says he had no idea he had COVID-19 while at the bar. But the owners say he knowingly put their staff and customers at risk. And now, he can't come back.

Roger Layne says that he didn't know he did not have COVID-19 symptoms until August 5th after he visited the restaurant. (Image: WTVC)

Roger Layne says he's been a regular at Mellow Mushroom for years.

But this week when he met friends at the Broad Street restaurant, he says they wouldn't serve him.

Upon learning of his ban, Layne gave the restaurant a negative review on Google, saying "I will never be back... I encourage all my friends to boycott this restaurant."

He posted a review on Google, and the owner responded saying "This is a gentle reminder that the reason that you are no longer allowed in our establishment was due to you coming as a bar patron while you knowingly had COVID-19."

"They said I went in there knowingly that I had COVID which is a lie," said Roger Layne.

This all goes back to a visit to the Mellow Mushroom in August 4th, 2020.

The Mellow Mushroom where Roger Layne was told he put others at risk of COVID-19 exposure. (Image: WTVC)

A statement, sent to us by the Mellow Mellow Mushroom says Layne was showing symptoms that night.

The restaurant says two people who came in direct contact with him later got sick.

"I would never expose my friends knowingly having COVID so I didn't have any symptoms while I was there at their restaurant," said Layne.

Reagan Schmissrauter was at the bar the same time as Layne. He says he saw visible symptoms as well.

"Oh he was confident. I said, you got a cough there, Roger. And he was like, yeah, I'm just coming down with the common cold," said Regan Schmissrauter.

"I did my own contact tracing before anybody told me to. I contacted all my friends and family immediately," said Roger Layne.

There is a disagreement about the timeline here.

Layne told us he wasn't showing symptoms until Wednesday, the day after visiting the Mellow Mushroom.

When we showed him a social media message that appears to show him telling Reagan he did have symptoms Tuesday night, he said he meant after he went to bed that night.

A text message Layne sent to the other customer on August 10th said, "I had symptoms Tuesday night, tested positive Thursday morning." (Image of exchange provided by Mellow Mushroom management).

But the restaurant says he knowingly put people at risk.

And with the blow COVID-19 has dealt to the restaurant business, the Mellow Mushroom says Layne's actions are, "Something that this industry can not tolerate".

"They have a right to refuse service to anyone. They don't have a right to make false statements about me and attack my character," said Layne.

The Health Department later put out an exposure warning about customers visiting the Mellow Mushroom August 5th, asking them to watch for symptoms and get tested.

Mellow Mushroom says they do their best to follow CDC guidelines. They want anyone experiencing COVID-like symptoms, to stay home and contact a medical professional.

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