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For Once, Norovirus Breaks Out at Chuck E. Cheese's Instead of Brawl

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The company says the outbreak began with a sick customer, not with food contamination.

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The spontaneous violence that regularly breaks out at Chuck E. Cheese's locations -- and seems to bypass other, similar chains such as Red Lobster (NYSE:DRI) and Chili's (NYSE:EAT) -- has been well-documented. So far, history has recorded:

  • A man arrested at a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Chuck E. Cheese's after police said he "ran around the restaurant spitting and yelling he had hepatitis C"
  • A pistol-whipping at a Toledo, Ohio, Chuck E. Cheese's, followed by gunshots and a felony assault charge
  • An alleged threat on a Springfield, Massachusetts, customer's life by a Chuck E. Cheese's employee wielding a butcher's knife after a dispute over the redeeming of game tickets turned ugly
  • Armed security guards stationed on the premises of a Milwaukee Chuck E. Cheese's after Alderman Tony Zielinski described the restaurant as being "like something out of a Quentin Tarantino film"
  • An 18-year-old pregnant woman charged with inciting a riot by Memphis police after another patron waiting to use the photo booth reportedly asked, "Dang, how long ya'll gonna be?"
Now, 18 Chuck E. Cheese's patrons in Hennepin County, Minnesota, have been knocked out cold by something else: norovirus.

The bug, which causes diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, among other symptoms, has been a problem on cruise ships, but this is the first time it has affected a Chuck E. Cheese's. Through a spokesperson, the chain (which was taken private in January by Apollo Global Management) denied any culpability in the outbreak, which was blamed on a sick customer, not food contamination.

"The cleanliness of our facility has not been called into question," read an email sent to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. "As we are always concerned about the health and safety of the families who visit our stores and we are aware that the norovirus has plagued many residents this spring, we will continue to be hypervigilant in maintaining our rigorous sanitation standards."

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