KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dozens of business owners gathered outside City Hall on Thursday in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, to protest the city's COVID-19 restrictions.
Many of the protesters said they are frustrated and feel targeted by the restrictions, including a restrictions that requires bars, restaurants and retailers to close at 10 p.m.
According to the owner of The Blue Line, a popular hockey-themed sports bar in the River Market, the early closure of bars and restaurants is impacting sales and sending customers across the state line.
“People are flocking over to Kansas," Blue Line owner Steve Stegall said. "They’re not wearing masks. They’re packed. They’re open until 12 (a.m.). They’re doing their thing over there, and it’s just amazing that in the same metro area we have different rules that apply us."
Stegall said businesses are losing customers, which affects their ability to retain staff.
“The problem we’re having right now is the 10 o’clock curfew is basically cutting our hours, No. 1, because the Blue Line is normally open until 3 o’clock in the morning," Richard Smith, a security guard, said.
Stegall filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the city and county. He's asking for a temporary restraining order, which would allow bars and restaurants in KCMO to operate past the current 10 p.m. restriction.
“The dealbreaker is when he cuts us off at 10 o’clock and we’ve got a 50% capacity rule," Stegall said. "I’m losing 40 to 50% of my business from 10 (p.m.) to 3 (a.m.)," Stegall said.
Business owners such as Stegall are also looking for federal aid. While Congress debates another stimulus plan, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said he would introduce a bill to provide a second round of relief.
“My bill that I introduced today would give $1,200 to every individual in need, $2,400 to couples and $500 to every child," Hawley said. "It is exactly what the Senate approved back in March."
Hawley told 41 Action News he's pushing for direct relief before the holidays and will take it to the Senate floor if necessary.
Mayor Quinton Lucas issued a statement Thursday night regarding the protest and defending the city's emergency health orders:
313 Kansas Citians have died of COVID-19. More than 1,100 have died in our region. I worry each day about our businesses and have worked mightily to support them in every way possible and will continue to do so, but I worry more about the far too many lives lost and the many others who have fallen ill. We owe it to our friends, neighbors, and relatives to do all we can to keep those at risk safe.
Our orders are reasonable, far less strict than those seen in other parts of our state, but they represent what experts have said can be a step to keeping our community safe. Our orders were issued based on the joint recommendation by local health directors from Kansas City, Jackson, Platte and Clay Counties in Missouri, and Wyandotte and Johnson Counties in Kansas.
I’m proud that our region has created measured, consistent guidelines to best protect our community. I will continue to work with our regional health and elected leaders to maintain consistent guidelines, to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Kansas City region, and to alleviate the strain on our first responders, healthcare workers, and hospital systems.