Andy Beshear orders Kentucky bars to close, restaurants to reduce capacity to combat COVID-19

After a series of COVID-19 case spikes, Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday ordered all bars to close for the second time since the pandemic hit Kentucky and all restaurants to reduce seating capacity to 25% to stem the spread of the virus.

The measures will begin at midnight Tuesday and will be in effect for two weeks — until Aug. 11. In addition, Beshear said his administration is recommending schools wait until the third week of August, at least, before starting in-person classes.

Stacy Roof, president and CEO of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, said of the capacity reduction that she is “disappointed, because I don’t think restaurants are the issue.”

“They’re not happy,” Roof said of the restaurant owners she has spoken with. “The schedules are made, the supplies are ordered, so they have to again change their plans. What are we now, on plan Q? We’re pretty far down the alphabet now.”

During his Monday press briefing in Frankfort, Beshear said while the indoor restaurant capacity will drop from 50% to 25%, outdoor capacity can remain as is with proper social distancing. Bars that serve food need to follow restaurant guidelines, he said.

Chef Dallas McGarity’s The Fat Lamb on Grinstead Drive is a small restaurant, which means limited capacity and social distancing severely impact profits.

“If we go back to 25%, for us that’s 18 people. That’s no use for me,” McGarity said. “That doesn’t pay the bills. I’m sure curbside would pick back up to support it, but that’s one of those things where you’re running two restaurants out of the same space.”

Other Louisville restaurant owners reported similarly grim numbers. The limited capacity means 30 seats, 26 seats, 36 seats. In other words, not enough.

Restaurant owners are frustrated, especially the ones who have been following the governor’s rules throughout the pandemic.

“I think that if restaurants have to be at 25%, so should groceries, hardware stores and other places,” said Seviche chef and owner Anthony Lamas. “It’s easy to point the finger, but we’re all in this together. It’s not a restaurant virus. It’s a community virus.”

Beshear announced 522 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 27,601 and raising the seven-day positivity rate to 5.58%. Of the new cases, 21 were children younger than 5. One is 11 days old, Beshear said.

He said he wants to avoid the significant death totals that follow case spikes.

“I don’t wanna be a state where a doctor has to look at 10 young people knowing they have three ventilators and make a decision, and possibly who lives and who dies,” he said. “By taking action right now, we can keep all of that from happening.”

Beshear encouraged more people to order restaurant takeout, but still, he said, “I’m not confident that every bar can survive the next two weeks.”

“It’s not fair to those that have done it responsibly, and I’m not going to pretend now that it’s fair, and I’m not going to pretend like there are some small businesses that they won’t make it through this,” he said.

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