Special Report

States Where Recently Reopened Bars and Dining Rooms Are Closing Again

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New York

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced new rules for restaurants and bars in the state on July 16. The regulations mandate that alcohol may be served only to patrons who order food (snacks like peanuts or potato chips don’t count), and that service at bars “must only be for seated patrons who are socially distanced by six feet or separated by physical barriers,” according to the official government statement. Reportedly particularly alarmed by social media posts showing large groups disregarding social distancing in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, Cuomo also announced a “Three Strikes and You’re Closed” initiative, under which any establishment cited for three violations of mask-wearing or social-distancing protocols will be closed for business. As of July 21, the state had suspended 27 liquor licenses for COVID-19-related infractions.

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Responding to a rise in coronavirus cases in the state, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf imposed new restrictions on recently reopened bars and restaurants, effective July 16. These establishments had been allowed to fill up to 50% of their seating capacity; that number has been rolled back to 25%. In addition, bar service is banned and alcohol can be served only with meals. The order also closes all nightclubs.

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In Shelby County, whose main city is Memphis, bars have been closed again, and restaurants can’t serve past 10 p.m. The county health department says it will consider new restaurant capacity restrictions if coronavirus numbers continue to rise. Nashville cut restaurant occupancy limits, which had been at 75%, back to 50%, and bars are now closed at least until the end of July. On July 21, Nashville Mayor John Cooper also imposed a 10 p.m. closing time on restaurants.

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Texas was one of the first states to roll back its regulations governing bars and restaurants. Lone Star bars had been reopened with a 25% capacity limit on May 22 and were allowed to increase to 50% capacity, with all customers seated, on June 3. Restaurants were given the go-ahead to operate at 75% capacity, with social-distancing requirements observed, on June 12. In late June, however, Governor Greg Abbott closed bars again and reduced allowable dining room capacity to 50%. The Texas Tribune quoted Abbott as saying, “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

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