Norfolk bars and restaurants are prepared to reopen to serve drinks today.
Starting June 1, bars are able to open at 50% maximum capacity, the Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department said in a Facebook post. Additionally, parties can be no larger than six people and parties must be seated 6 feet apart. Larger parties will have to split up. No bar seating is allowed, customers must be seated except when ordering or using the restroom, and all games, such as pool and darts, are prohibited.
For some establishments, these rules can be problematic.
“If the bar seating isn’t available, that’s a huge problem,” said Andrew McCarthy, owner of District Table and Tap. “Those restrictions on the bar seating really hurt people like us.”
McCarthy’s business has been open throughout the pandemic, first with carryout, then for dining. Now, people can come in just for drinks, he said.
So far, District Table and Tap hasn’t had many problems meeting the restrictions. This could change, though, in the future, McCarthy said, especially on busy weekend nights.
“Once the bars start opening, I’m not sure who’s going to regulate people going around and talking to other tables,” he said.
Miranda Wieneke, general manager of Big Red Keno, said she is not too concerned about meeting the regulations.
“I’m not worried,” she said. “My staff’s good; we’ve been keeping on top of it.”
For bars, this will be the first time they’ve been open since March, and they are excited to reopen.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Scott Stevens, owner of the O Lounge. “Obviously, the business is nice, but just giving people the opportunity to get out (will be great). I think people are just going to be happy.”
Stevens doesn’t think meeting the restrictions will be a big issue, he said.
“We’ve all been in it together for two or three months now,” he said. “I just don’t think we’re going to have any problems; I just don’t see any issues.”
Stevens has been using the down time to redo the parking, reseal floors, clean and finish other projects in the bar, he said.
Employees at Big Red Keno also kept busy, Wieneke said.
“We deep cleaned, we repainted,” she said. “Pretty much anything you can think of, we did.”
Stevens predicts business will be slower than usual at first, he said.
“We went to a couple of restaurants over the last couple of weeks and they weren’t packed,” he said. “I think it’ll be busy, but I don’t think it’ll be anything like it was before we shut down.”
The O Lounge will take the extra precaution of having hand sanitizer at the doors and thermometers to take customers’ temperatures, Stevens said. Still, he worries it won’t be enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Unfortunately, I think somebody’s going to come into the bar with COVID,” he said.