With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Beshear orders restaurants, bars to close indoor service – Courier Journal
Louisville, KY— With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday that all restaurants and bars will be closed to indoor services.
The new rules begin at 5 p.m. Friday and will be in effect until Dec. 13, Beshear said.
“Carryout, delivery and outdoor seating service may continue, but only if the mask mandate and seating rules are enforced,” Beshear said.
Beshear cited sources from Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that noted restaurants and bars were “clearly spreading, if not the greatest spread, of COVID-19.”
To go along with the rules, Beshear announced a $40 million aid package for restaurants and bars. Applications will be accepted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18, and entities that qualify will receive $10,000 to use for various costs. Relief will not be available for publicly traded companies, as it is intended for smaller, locally owned restaurants.
“We really want to make sure that we target the mom and pop individual business owners out there who may be suffering from the largest impact all businesses,” said Beshear’s chief of staff, La Tasha Buckner. “We know this doesn’t cover the entire impact cost your business by COVID-19, but we’re hoping that it will help some.”
Businesses will be eligible for a maximum of $20,000 per location, with restaurants that have at least 50% of their sales from drive-thru service not eligible for the funds.
But Anoosh Shariat,owner of Anoosh Bistro and Noosh Nosh, said that $10,000 barely covers payroll for one week for one of his restaurants. Going back to only takeout means going from 10 cooks at Noosh Nosh to two.
“It’s really the bare minimum,” Shariat said. “Truly, it’s a month’s loss. It’s a crucial time, and a lot of our restaurants are going to have a hard time dealing with it. Last closing we were able to get some PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) money, and that kept us alive, barely, but this? If we don’t see anything from national or federal level, this is going to be a really breaking a lot of restaurants’ backs.”
Wednesday’s announcement follows several months of yo-yoing on rules and regulations for bar and restaurant owners. This time, the governor gave a warning on Monday that new measures would be announced if recent recommendations didn’t work quickly to reduce the surge.
So it wasn’t a surprise when Beshear announced the new restaurant shutdown. But for restaurant owners, it’s still frustrating to keep up with ever-changing rules on what is allowed when dining out.
Especially with winter around the corner.
“Fifty percent capacity was already bad enough,” said Paul Blackburn, owner of Union 15 and co-owner of Couvillion. “During the summer we could use tents and patios. But when we get into the 30s temperatures, I don’t care how good a tent you have you won’t be able to heat it.”
Siobhan Reidy, co-owner of The Irish Rover, said earlier Wednesday if a rule were put in place and enforced for every business, it would be a relief.
“It’s kind of like the smoking ban,” she said. “At first we said, ‘Oh, bars will go out of business.’ But my feeling is if they can’t do it anywhere, we’ll all just get used to it. At this point, it’s obvious that asking people politely to do something is not working.”
In early August, Beshear shut down bars completely and brought indoor restaurant capacity to 25%. On Aug. 11, the governor allowed bars to reopen with strictly enforced seating rules and allowed restaurants back to 50% capacity. He also set a curfew for bars and restaurants mandating the last call for orders at 10 p.m.
On Sept. 15, the governor adjusted the curfew rules and pushed the last call up to 11 p.m. with establishments expected to close by midnight. He said it was based on a specific request from those in the restaurant industry and was part of a recognition that with “sports coming back, some of the games can now go until 11.”
Also in September, Beshear stressed that industries like the hospitality industry, which have regulations like masked employees, sanitizing and distanced tables set to prevent the spread of COVID-19, should “try to do it right” and not try to find a way around the rules.
In Floyd County, Indiana, restaurants and bars were given new rules Tuesday: Bars must close by 10 p.m., and restaurants can operate at a maximum 75% capacity with spaced-out tables. In Kentucky, diners will be limited to outdoor dining and takeout only.
Shariat said the ruling doesn’t make sense when Indiana restaurants are still able to be open indoors, because guests will just cross the river to dine.
Chef Eric Morris, who owns the recently opened Faces Bar & Bistro at 1604 Bardstown Road in the Highlands, said in a previous interview everything is changing so quickly it’s hard to keep up.
“It’s difficult. You form a game plan with your staff about what to do to get through it … and everything changes,” Morris said. “I don’t know if we’re just being punished. I don’t know. I think it’s very unfair for restaurants, though.”
Restaurant owners feel squeezed between patrons who resist the restrictions and others who are bothered the establishment hasn’t shut down.
“Restaurants can’t win,” said Stacy Roof, president and CEO of the Kentucky Restaurant Association.
Having to operate at 50% capacity is tough enough, but eateries need time to order food and align staff to any restrictions. The coming months already pose enough challenges to make a go of it, Roof said.
“They’re just hoping they are still around when all this is over,” she said.
Winter is coming:What does that mean for already struggling restaurants?
Blackburn said before the pandemic, he ran two successful restaurants that were able to pay their employees well and “serve a great product to customers.”
“Now, no matter what you do as a business owner, it doesn’t matter, because someone else has their finger on your pulse,” he said. “You have to follow the rules. Of course I want people not to get sick. But it’s a very humbling and frustrating position to be in.”
Beshear said he didn’t want to cause harm to restaurants and bars, but “this virus spreads where people congregate and take off their masks.”
“It’s really unfair to the restaurants and bars, but it’s not us being unfair,” he said. “It’s the virus being unfair.”
Dahlia Ghabour: 502-582-4497; email@example.com; Twitter: @dghabour.