Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bars Now Open on Health Department Order

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 12:56 PM

click to enlarge High Cotton - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • High Cotton

All businesses can open here Wednesday, thanks to the latest change from the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD).

The change was announced Tuesday during the briefing from the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force. The move came after new daily case counts averaged below 185 for several weeks.

The change is a big win for limited service restaurants like bars, wine bars, pubs, and others that focus on sales of alcoholic beverages more than the sale of food. Those establishment have remained shuttered for weeks while full-service restaurants and others were allowed to open.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter, director of the SCHD, said bars were shut down not just because they were bars, but because of the activities that take place within them, calling the activities “high-risk behavior for (virus) transmission.” The health department did not make the decision to close bars on any specific local data, she said. She said they relied on evidence from other communities that showed bars were hotspots for transmissions.

However, the health department now has greater capacity and new data sets that can  identify an outbreak in specific bars in a more timely fashion and can “be laser focused.”

Limited service restaurants will have to adhere to the same guidelines as full-service restaurants: No seating at physical bars. Alcohol can only be served alongside food to customers sitting at tables. Service to customers can only last two hours. All establishments must close at 10 p.m. However, curbside and delivery can continue after 10 p.m.

Dancing and singing are not allowed inside at any establishment yet. However, live music is allowed at outdoor venues, but not dancing. Music must be played at a volume that still allows customers to speak at a regular volume and not yell at one another.

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