Seated bar service resuming in Virginia under updated COVID-19 restrictions

Virginia News
Patrons at a Richmond restaurant

Patrons at a Richmond restaurant (Photo Jackie Defusco)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Updated coronavirus restrictions in Virginia allow limited bar seating to resume for the first time in more than a year.

According to the latest version of Executive Order 72, which was officially updated on Wednesday, restaurants can serve customers at the bar as long as there is six feet of distance between parties. Previously, congregate areas had to be closed except for through traffic.

The change was quietly made without a public announcement.

Northam’s office is not commenting on why the change to bar seating rules was not publicly announced along with other restrictions. Spokesperson Alena Yarmoksy declined to explain why the update wasn’t detailed at a press conference earlier this week but she said that the Administration is continuing to review measures and make changes fluidly.

Robert Melvin, director of government affairs with the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, said rumors started swirling earlier this week but they too found out on Wednesday that the change would be effective immediately.

“We’re very thankful for the Governor’s actions on this,” Melvin said in a phone interview on Thursday. “It is something we have been wanting for restaurants to help expand their capacity and, frankly, we can do this safely.” 

On Monday, Northam announced updates to guidelines for cross-country events and school performance clubs.

The new executive order specifies that outdoor races, such as marathons where physical distancing is possible, may include no more than 100 runners per grouping. Indoor race organizers must stagger starts and separate runners into groups of 50 or less. These events still have to abide by a 30 percent occupancy limit, based on allowing 40 square feet per person.

Furthermore, Northam is allowing school performances, such as theatrical and musical performances, to be subject to the same guidelines as high school sports. According to Northam, that means they can increase capacity indoors to 100 people or 30 percent of the venue’s capacity. Outdoors, groups can have a maximum of 500 people or 30 percent of the space’s capacity.

Other changes clarify rules for gatherings in instructional settings. It says students and staff can convene for educational instruction or activities related to educational instruction.

However, it goes on to specify that other school-sponsored events like PTA meetings, dances and fundraisers are subject to the state’s standard social gathering caps. Right now, all social gatherings are limited to 50 individuals indoors and 100 individuals outdoors.

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