Final Update on Norovirus Outbreak at SPJ Banquet

Dear SPJ members and banquet attendees:

I want to share one final update on our 2015 journalism awards banquet at the Bali Hai Restaurant in San Diego, where dozens of us got so sick.

First, I want to apologize again for that experience. It ruined an otherwise fantastic celebration of our myriad accomplishments. I choose to focus on the evening instead of what followed. And I choose to look ahead to next year’s banquet, when we will honor the region’s excellent journalists one more time and celebrate our new distinction as the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2015 chapter of the year. That is something we should all be proud of.

As county health inspectors determined this was a foodborne illness, I spoke with Bali Hai co-owner Larry Baumann by phone and sent him a letter, asking for a full refund — while emphasizing that the refund would not satisfy any individual’s claim against the venue should any attendee who became sick file such a claim. The board’s preliminary thought was that we might channel that refund into a scholarship fund so that something good could come out of this.

We didn’t hear back by phone, email or letter, and Mr. Baumann didn’t return my followup phone call.

I did receive a voice message from the insurance carrier for Shelter Island Inc., representing the Bali Hai, asking for a list of people who needed medical attention and had out-of-pocket medical expenses. I called him back to collect more information and got his voicemail. He didn’t return the call.

As a result, we have decided to end our longstanding relationship with the Bali Hai, where we have held our annual banquet for years. We are extremely disappointed by its lack of responsiveness and floored, frankly, that no one from the Bali Hai ever apologized to us for this foodborne illness. We will choose a new venue for next year’s banquet and are eager to talk about options with other local vendors. We know we will find a great fit for an evening celebration of 150 or more journalists, who enjoy eating and drinking and frequenting local establishments that are worthy of our affection 365 days a year.

One last order of business: If you needed medical attention and had out-of-pocket medical expenses, here is the insurance carrier’s information. To contact him on your own, call John Tazza at Liberty Mutual Insurance at (949) 860-6050 or email him at and reference claim No. 23140200.

If you have any questions or can recommend a great venue, please don’t hesitate to email me at

We appreciate your commitment to journalism and the society.


Matthew T. Hall

SPJ San Diego president


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