Bar owners count on expensive stops and starts while states close them

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People queue to enter a restaurant on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida on June 26, 2020.Chandan Khanna | AFP | Getty Images

The list continues to grow.The governors of Michigan, Florida, Texas, California, Colorado and Arizona again close thousands of bars before the weekend of July 4, while the cases of Covid-19 in these states increase.

For bar owners, going backwards has created confusion and stress, and threatens the survival of their businesses. Many spent their money if necessary to reopen, but to close days or weeks later.

“Stopping and starting up costs thousands of dollars for each business,” said David Kaplan, co-owner of Death & Co, a lounge bar with locations in Los Angeles, Denver and New York.

The Texas Bar and Nightclub Association is suing the state against Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to close bars for the second time in three months. Dozens gathered in Austin to protest the turning back.

As the United States sets new case records in one day, other states are slowing down their efforts to reopen their economies. New Jersey and New York City have both postponed the return of indoor dining indefinitely.

Viral videos posted on social media show consumers packed inside and outside bars across the country. At the same time, several outbreaks have been linked to local bars, including nearly 140 cases in East Lansing, Michigan.

Kaplan said that bars that do not apply social distancing make it harder for bars and restaurants trying to be safe. But the economic pressure of the crisis and the limited advice from government officials also pose a challenge.

“The guidelines are so thin, and then the app is a bit nonexistent, so it’s difficult,” said Kaplan. “I think most people, if they don’t do it right, probably want it or try it, but it’s a totally different way of working. ”

Only the Denver store of Death & Co, which technically functions as a restaurant, is open again. The Kaplan team spent about $ 3,500 to reopen the bar in Los Angeles before stopping the plans when cases in California started to increase again. Governor Gavin Newsom closed indoor bars and restaurants on Wednesday in 19 counties, including Los Angeles.

“We have to find common ground because if we don’t find a road to open, we will face a permanent closure,” said Kaplan. “It is not if and when we feel safe, it is if and when we feel that the risk is at an acceptable level and our team is comfortable continuing the reopening process. It’s a terrible decision, honestly. ”

Todd Conner, owner of The Offbeat and The Good Nite bars in Los Angeles, said he was happy to be closed for community safety, but the city made a mistake by reopening the bars so early. Los Angeles closed bars to reopen June 19.

“I think they jumped the gun here,” said Conner. “If they had waited, it would have saved me a lot of time and resources – resources that would have been better spent on the day of reopening.”

When Los Angeles is about to reopen its bars for the second time, Conner said it would be more careful.

“By all the comings and goings and bad decisions made, we are starting to lose confidence in the system, that they have our backs here,” he said.

Bars vs restaurants

Some bar owners have criticized the decision to treat bars and restaurants differently, although many restaurants also serve alcohol to patrons.

Todd Quigley is the owner of Craft and Growler, a Dallas-based craft beer bar. While its establishment also serves food, Texas classifies it as a bar. When the state reopened restaurants before bars, take-out sales fell from about half the pre-pandemic levels to around 10%. And now that the bars are closed again, this trend is back – and the money from his Paycheck Protection Program loan has run out.

“If we’re not the same as restaurants, I get killed,” said Quigley, noting that he followed the Covid-19 protocol.

“It is not a restaurant or bar classification, it is ownership and management. And you have to close the places that don’t do it properly, ”he added.

In Florida, police have told several restaurants that they have to close because they have bars, according to Carol Dover, CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“Most restaurants, unless you are quick service, will have a bar inside. So there was a lot of confusion on the law enforcement side that these bars should be closed, “said Dover.

The setbacks could also mean the dismissal of rehired workers. The unemployment rate in the United States fell to 11.1% in June, according to the Department of Labor, the leisure and hotel sector gaining 2.1 million jobs – about 40% of the growth.

“I have to decide, do I stay open or not?” I prefer to do what I do and keep people from being unemployed, but the state of Texas has put me in a very bad position, “said Quigley. .

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