Last week, the Nevada COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force said it would allow bars, taprooms, breweries and wineries in Washoe County to reopen on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.
For bars, breweries and other establishments around Reno and Las Vegas that don’t serve food, it’s been almost two months since they were required to close.
Bars were shut down in March by Gov. Steve Sisolak in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Bars were allowed to reopen on June 30 but then were required to close again less than a month later, on July 27.
For some bar owners, the reopening is long overdue. And there are still questions as to why bars that serve food were allowed to stay open.
“We’re very excited to finally be able to reopen I but I think there’s a part of us that’s a little reserved — just because until it happens it hasn’t happened,” said Sadie Bonnette, owner of Death & Taxes. “I do feel that we will be able to remain open. I’m hoping that they just don’t close down an industry as a whole because there were a few bad apples in the bunch.”
Chapel Tavern owner Duncan Mitchell said he’s not holding his breath as to whether the bars will be allowed to stay open.
“I don’t think bars cause coronavirus anymore than any other businesses do. It just seemed like we were singled out for some reason,” Mitchell said. “Why was food the deciding factor for who got to open and who didn’t get to open? It should have been based on who was following the rules, who was following the protocols.”
On Monday, Jaimi Ficco, the owner of Beer NV, gave members of the press a tour with the Washoe County Health District on how the reopening will work.
Whether you’re planning on hitting up your favorite bar with friends or a long-attended brewery on your own this week, this is what you can expect as you head out:
Masks are still required
Masks will be required for patrons when they’re not where they’ve been seated.
Customers will also be asked to use hand sanitizer when entering the facility. “We’ll have a hand sanitizing station for guests,” Ficco said. “We ask that they sanitize their hands upon entry. Sit down with your mask. Anytime you get up, make sure you have your mask on whether it’s we go to the bathroom, look at the menu boards or enter or leave.”
If you’re going out with a group, make sure it’s smaller than six
Bars will only allow parties of six or less to be seated at a table. If you want to be seated at the bar, your party must be three or smaller.
Parties must also arrive at the same time in order to be seated together.
No walking up to the bar, occupancy is capped at 50%
Bars, taprooms and breweries can only operate at 50% capacity and patrons must be seated at six feet apart for social distancing.
Patrons must be served where they’re seated. This means no approaching the bar unless you’re seated there.
Guidelines from the county also suggest limiting the hours customers can stay to 2 hours, but it’s up to the business.
Live entertainment won’t be allowed.
Live entertainment and any interactive games such as pool, darts and video games won’t be allowed.
Employees will be screened for COVID-19.
Employees of bars should expect wellness checks when they arrive to work. If they show COVID-19 symptoms or have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they will not be allow to return to work until they receive a negative test result.
Employees are also still required to wear masks and wash their hands at the beginning and end of their shift, before and after eating, after using the bathroom and after customer interactions.
Tables and other high traffic surfaces will be cleaned between customers.
Employees will be required to routinely clean tables, chairs, barters, restrooms, door handles and other high traffic surfaces. Patrons will not be able to sit at a table until it has been disinfected.
Deep cleaning will occur after the close of business each day.
So are they ready?
Reno-area bar owners interviewed on Wednesday afternoon said they are ready to open for business.
“I think there’s a lot of pent up demand to go to people’s favorite watering holes and get back together and feel semi-normal again. Even if a lot of the restrictions make it feel abnormal,” said Larry DeVincenzi, owner of Rum Sugar Lime. “We just need everybody’s cooperation, and that goes from the businesses to the staff, but more importantly, I think the public.”
Mitchell said he thinks people are “chomping at the bit” to come out and socialize.
“It seems to me, for the most part, people are kind of used to this new normal,” Mitchell said. “They’re kind of used to wearing the masks, they’re kind of used to social distancing, and I think people feel that if they follow the guidelines and they do what they’re supposed to do that they can come to bars and be safe.”
Jeremy Warren, the CEO and co-founder of Revision Brewing Company, said they already have rules in place to ensure compliance with the county.
“I think Revision Brewing is more than prepared and ready to lead by example,” he said.
Taylor Avery is a student at the Reynolds School of Journalism and is a Fall 2020 intern reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. You can support her work by contributing to the journalism school’s Dean’s Advisory Council fund.