Country Cottage Open For Business

Saturday, November 22nd 2008, 6:13 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, News On 6

LOCUST GROVE, OK -- The restaurant at the center of a massive outbreak of E. coli is open for business again.

The Country Cottage had been closed since late August while the health department investigated the outbreak.

It's been 89 days since the restaurant served a meal. The health department says changes have been made to prevent another outbreak, but the family that owns it is still not talking and that has at least one victim's family upset.

Machaela Ybarra looks like any other 3-year-old. But two months ago her life was anything but normal, confined to a hospital bed, Machaela spent 41 days in ICU on dialysis, twice she came close to death.

"You just went day by day and, really, hour by hour," said Christina Ybarra, Machaela's mother.

Machaela was one of 341 people who became sick after contracting a rare form of E. coli.

The bacteria killed 26-year old Chad Ingle.  

The Country Cottage is the restaurant at the center of the investigation. The source has never been found and the health department is not sure if it ever will be.

Nearly three months after the outbreak forced it to close; the Country Cottage welcomed its first customers late Saturday morning. A half-hour after opening more than 20 diners were back at one of Mayes County's most popular restaurants.

"I'm sure that they've taken all kinds of precautions. Anything the health department has asked them to do, I feel sure that they have fulfilled all of that or I wouldn't be here today," said Wagoner resident, Betty Gotcher.

The health department is allowing the restaurant to open, saying the owners have passed several inspections and agreed to certain conditions such as monitoring employees as they wash their hands.

The News On 6 was allowed inside the restaurant, but was not allowed to take in a camera, and as they've done since the start of the outbreak, the family that owns the Country Cottage would not talk on camera, saying that they continue to pray for the victims.

While Jonathan Ybarra doesn't hold any grudges, he wishes the family would be more transparent.

"It's their responsibility as business owners to come up front and not send a spokesperson or somebody else, but to actually come up front and say their hearts," said Jonathan Ybarra.

Jonathan Ybarra was asked if the restaurant should wait to open until they do that.

"I would have thought that would have been a good idea," said Jonathan Ybarra.

The Ybarra's say they'll never return to the Country Cottage and their focus now is on getting their little girl back to normal.

"The doctors said it's not panic mode, but it is concern mode, because at this time her kidneys should be doing better and they're not," said Jonathan Ybarra.

The owners have also removed the buffet and changed to a family style restaurant, they say it allows them to keep more control over the food. They also say the decision to open was very difficult.

Related Story:

11/19/2008 - Restaurant To Reopen After E. Coli Probe