Douglas County tightens order on bars, restaurants

Some businesses not happy with continued restrictions
Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence.
Posted at 5:28 PM, Sep 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 18:52:49-04

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health issued a new order this week that requires bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol by 9 p.m., and to close by 10 p.m.

Food can still be sold for carry-out or delivery after 10 p.m. Restaurants that don’t serve alcohol are not required to close at 10 p.m.

The announcement came only days before the Labor Day weekend. The health department said the order was issued to help control the spread of the coronavirus.

"My hope is that we are able to open the bars in a safe way to so that people can have a semblance of a normal life," said Sonia Jordan, director of informatics at Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.

That includes the thousands of University of Kansas students who have populated the town over the past couple of weeks.

"We have to set very close parameters to make sure that is done in a matter that is safe for them," Jordan said. "They can get sick from COVID."

However, some businesses told 41 Action News that they are not supportive of the new order.

"I’m kind of scratching my head about it; I really don’t understand it," said Jeremy Sidener, owner of Eighth Street Taproom. "Bars operate in a way that different groups of patrons go to the bars at different times of the day, and now you’re suggesting that they’re all lumped into the same time frame to get whatever it is they want to have happen done."

Sidener proactively closed his bar down on March 15 and hasn't opened since.

"Business is as bad as it can be when you’re closed every single day," he said.

When establishments stop serving alcohol, Sidener believes people will just find another place to party.

"Prohibition like this will cause ... parties and stuff off-campus that we’ll not be able to regulate," Sidener said. "When people go to a bar, they’ll have to adhere to the rules of the bar."

Here are a few other elements of the county's order:

  • Restaurants and bars serving alcohol must have patrons seated at a table with a maximum group of 10 people per table, and social distancing requirements between tables and groups of patrons must be observed.
  • No customers can be standing at or congregating at a bar or counter, and all food and beverages must be consumed by patrons while seated, except for carry-out services.
  • Face masks need to be worn by anyone who is inside a public space or outside and unable to maintain 6 feet of social distance from non-household members. There are exceptions, including for children 5 or younger.
  • Mass gatherings of more than 45 people are prohibited. These are instances in which individuals who don’t reside together are in one location and are unable to maintain a 6-foot distance.
  • An occupancy limitation of 100 people for entertainment venues, provided social distancing and face mask requirements are maintained.
  • Dance floors at entertainment venues and establishments must be closed for dancing and may be repurposed for table seating.

The order will remain in place indefinitely as Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health continues to look at data to determine any changes in the future.