Northam’s decision to close bar seating under Phase 3 feels like déjà vu for some

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Just before the third phase of Virginia’s reopening plan was set to commence, Governor Ralph Northam announced that seating at bars will be prohibited, saying states that allowed bar seating are now seeing an influx of coronavirus cases.

It’s a surprising turn of events for bar-goers and bar owners, who say Governor Northam “kicked the keg” hours before bar seating was set to be offered. Some restaurant owners tell 8News, they’re feeling déjà vu.

RELATED: Northam announces bar seating will remain closed under Phase 3 of reopening

“All the servers come up to me and they’re like, ‘Oh they’re not doing bar seating. They’re not doing bar seating Phase Three,'” said Alex Raymond, general manager of Latitude Seafood Company in Richmond’s Stony Point Fashion Park. He recalled when Northam approved Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s request to delay Phase One – which included reopening of restaurants outdoors. Restaurant owners cried foul on the last minute change after buying food and taking some staff off furlough.

“It’s definitely, definitely less of a problem,” Raymond said. “I do try to look on the bright side of everything. So, if we can take out the bar seating and hopefully that will potentially make us not completely close again.”

Mary Taylor says she thinks bar seating should be limited to at least 50 percent capacity. She understands the concern about a possible rise in cases, however.

“I’d rather be at the bar but if this where I can get it, then I got it,” she said.

When it comes to the temporary hold on bar seating, one person told 8News they’re all for it.

“I don’t think that there is enough information about COVID and the way that it spreads to give a definite ‘Phase 3 reopening, we can all sit at the bar and we are all going to be safe,'” said a woman named Elynn, who declined to give her last name to 8News.

The Governor’s Executive Order says bar seats and congregating areas of restaurants must be closed to patrons except for foot traffic, and non-bar seating in bar areas can be used for customer seating as long as there’s a 6-foot distance between people.

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