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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Enterprising Spirit: The Swinging Doors installs ultraviolet light air purifying system to enhance safety during COVID-19

From left, Bob Materne, his daughter, Lisa Emery, and his wife, Barb Materne, stand in The Swinging Doors on West Francis Avenue on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. The family has installed an air-purifying system that uses ultraviolet light and hydro-peroxide to remove viruses and bacteria from the air.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

As restaurants nationwide implement social distancing and additional cleaning measures to protect customers from COVID-19, one local restaurant is taking it a step further.

The Swinging Doors on Spokane’s North Side has installed the Reme Halo, an in-duct air purification system that uses ultraviolet light to remove viruses, bacteria and mold from the air.

After the pandemic took hold locally in mid-March, forcing The Swinging Doors to temporarily close, owner Bob Materne and his daughter, Lisa Emery, who manages the restaurant, ordered the air purifying units from R&R Heating & Air Conditioning.

“We ordered three for our air conditioning and heating units and waited patiently,” Emery said, adding it was a 12-to- 14-week wait to receive the units.

The units were installed in July and cost about $3,500 for installation, she said.

Florida-based RGF Environmental Group Inc. manufactures the Reme Halo, which uses hydro-peroxide plasma and ultraviolet light to purify surfaces and the air, removing 99% of bacteria, mold and viruses, according to the company.

The system has not been tested on COVID-19 but has been effective in removing bacteria, such as MRSA, and other viruses, such as H1N1 and SARS, the company says on its website.

RGF Environmental Group Inc. said it is “evaluating COVID-19 testing options with partners in both the U.S. and China.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stated that when used properly, air cleaners and HVAC filters can help reduce airborne contaminants in a building but are not effective by themselves to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

“When used along with other best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, filtration can be part of a plan to protect people indoors,” the agency says on its website.

The Swinging Doors, at 1018 W. Francis Ave., is using the Reme Halo system as an additional layer of protection for customers, in addition to dividers between booths, enhanced cleaning, face masks, hand sanitizing stations and disposable menus, among other things, Emery said.

“We just wanted an extra layer of protection, because shutting down once was hard enough,” Emery said. “We didn’t want to have to do it again.”

It’s not just The Swinging Doors that is purchasing the air purifying units.

The Reme Halo has been popular among homeowners and businesses in the area, said Justin Pinter, director of business development for R&R Heating & Air Conditioning.

“They have been so popular that it has been really hard to get them,” he said, adding the company has been ordering pallets of the systems, some of which took several months to arrive.

“A lot of people have called to get them installed. We bought 60 a couple months ago and went through those pretty quick,” he added. “We have another order coming in shortly.”

More than 2 million Reme Halo systems have been sold nationwide and installed in government buildings, hotels, hospitals, schools, public transit networks, restaurants and more, Matthew Charles, vice president of RGF Environmental Group’s air products division, said in an email.

The company expects sales to be brisk through the end of the year.

“There is no end in sight, we haven’t even hit our baseline,” Charles said. “With the increased awareness of the importance of indoor air quality, businesses continue to take the necessary steps to protect their customers and employees. The pandemic has led to a whole mindset change.”

Patrons at The Swinging Doors have been appreciative of additional steps the establishment is taking to ensure their safety, according to Emery.

She said the business will continue to use the system for years to come.

“It didn’t take much to install them, and it doesn’t require much more electricity (to power the system),” she said. “They are here to stay for sure.”