Many states closed all but essential businesses beginning in mid-March due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Some began reopening them as early as late April. These businesses included bars and restaurants, which in most cases were allowed to resume operations, especially for indoor service, only with social distancing, mask-wearing requirements, and capacity restrictions.
Almost everyone agrees now, however, that the reopenings went too far, too fast. The coronavirus pandemic, far from having abated, is raging more strongly than ever across the nation. More than 70,000 new cases a day were reported on both Thursday and Friday of last week, and numbers have risen in 42 states over the past 14 days, according to a report in the New York Times called “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.
Although they’re hardly the only venues in which infection is possible, bars and restaurants seem to be particularly problematic — especially bars. “Bars: really not good, really not good,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on COVID-19 in late June. “Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news.” (Reclosings aside, here’s how the coronavirus is changing bars.)
Responding to spikes in coronavirus cases, at least 14 states have had second thoughts, imposing new restrictions on places that serve food and drink or reviving those only recently rescinded.
Though a growing number of restaurants across the nation are voluntarily shutting down temporarily after employees test positive for the virus, no state or local government has yet closed eating places completely. Some, though, have reinstituted bans on indoor dining entirely or substantially scaled back permitted capacity limits, and a number have closed bars again — either all of them or those that don’t serve food.
Needless to say, being shut down for a second time will have a devastating impact on many of these establishments. Being unable to do business at previous levels (or at all) had already driven numerous restaurants out of business. (These are 50 popular restaurants that won’t reopen after the pandemic.)
The situation is ever-changing, though. While more states and local jurisdictions might roll back or delay reopenings in response to the pandemic, it’s also possible that declining infection rates in some places might make it possible for bars and restaurants to reopen at least partially yet again.