The cafe owned by $2.6 billion startup Brex has closed ‘until further notice’ after a worker tested positive for COVID-19

  • In an email sent to employees Monday, credit card startup Brex announced its cafe and member lounge was closed until further notice after a cafe employee tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
  • The cafe opened in 2019 and was consciously located in a neighborhood that housed several offices of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capital firms.
  • One investor told Business Insider in a previous conversation that they so frequent the lunch spot that they are on a first-name basis with many of the staff.
  • The employee was not named but was said to have been exposed through a sibling that attends one of the several San Francisco schools closed due to coronavirus exposure.
  • According to the email sent to Brex employees, no current Brex employees are exhibiting symptoms and the cafe employee was not involved in food preparation for the cafe or community events.
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A cafe employee at Brex-owned and operated South Park Cafe has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the company confirmed to Business Insider on Monday. 

Brex, a San Francisco fintech startup valued at $2.6 billion, has temporarily shut down the cafe as a result of the situation, as well as closing the company-owned lounge that it operates above the cafe.

“A Brex employee has tested positive for COVID-19. We are taking this situation very seriously, and as a result have temporarily closed the San Francisco office, as well as our Oval Room and South Park Cafe, and have asked employees in our SF locations to work from home until further notice,” Brex told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

“We will continue to work with local officials to make sure ensure the health and safety of our employees,” the statement continued. 

According to an email sent to Brex employees on Monday, and posted on Twitter, the employee was thought to have contracted the coronavirus through a sibling that attends a school in San Francisco that was recently closed due to exposure to the virus.

The employee, who was not named in the email, had not shown any symptoms but was said to be at home resting. It is not clear whether the employee is part of the handful of cases reported in San Francisco, or whether the employee is in self-imposed quarantine.

The buzzy credit card startup has taken San Francisco and its startup ecosystem by storm since it graduated from Y Combinator’s accelerator program in 2017. Originally just a credit card for other startups, Brex has expanded to bank account products, wire transfers, and even the South Park Cafe.

The cafe opened in 2019 in one of San Francisco’s buzziest business districts. The site of San Francisco’s first major tech boom, South Park has become synonymous with venture capital in San Francisco in recent years. The neighborhood features city outposts for just about every major Silicon Valley venture firm, and its well-kept park and tree-lined streets are worlds away from nearby neighborhoods popular with smaller startups. 

Among the two or three lunch options in the neighborhood is South Park Cafe, a savvy way for Brex to remain top of mind for its venture capitalist neighbors and the startups pitching them over a moderately-priced salad. In a previous conversation, one investor told Business Insider that they so regularly visit the cafe for lunch that they were on a first-name basis with much of the staff, and had a regular table.

Venture capitalists have largely steered clear of in-person meetings over the last few weeks, and South Park has been noticeably emptier than usual. 

It is not clear whether all South Park Cafe patrons have been notified of potential exposure, and it is not clear in what capacity the employee interacted with others. The email sent to Brex employees Monday confirmed that the employee in question was not involved in food preparation for either the cafe or Brex offices. Other employees that were exposed will be tested, and Brex said it was in close contact with the San Francisco public health department.

Brex employees were notified that they may have been exposed given the cafe’s overlap with its own office and because many employees frequent the cafe for meals. The startups’ lounge space, called the Oval Room, sits above the cafe and is now closed as well. Any Brex cardholder normally has access to the space. No Brex employee has reported infection or symptoms from exposure, according to the email.

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