Bar owners in the US state of Arizona are rallying against a government ruling that on-trade venues not serving food must close indefinitely to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Lawmakers in the state ruled that venues with a series six or series seven licence to sell spirits, which allow for the sale of alcohol without any requirement to serve food, should close until the threat of the virus is deemed minimal.
However, restaurant bars, hotel bars, casino bars and other similar establishments have been permitted to stay open.
According to current guidelines, bars in Arizona that serve food are able to operate at 50% capacity as long as there are fewer than 100 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people and the percentage of positive cases is below 10%. In the last seven days, there have been 83 cases per 100,000 people.
Bars that do not serve food are unable to reopen until the percentage of positive tests for Covid-19 falls below 3%.
Bar owners protesting the decision argue the distinction between series six and seven licensed venues and restaurants “has no relation to public health”. So far, more than 7,500 people have signed a petition against the ruling.
Series 12 venues (those serving both food and alcohol) that have been able to open in the state have been required to work under physical distancing guidelines, operating at 50% capacity and encouraging guests to drink and dine outdoors.
Ian Juul, owner of Mooney’s Irish Pub in Sedona, Arizona, said his venue had been prepared to meet these same guidelines once it was ready to reopen.
He said: “We had ceased all live music, dancing, karaoke, darts and foosball. All customers were required to wear face coverings and we were giving away free masks to customers who didn’t have masks.
“We had installed two high volume medical grade air purifying systems that filtrate air to remove viruses. We had limited our internal capacity and removed seating and tables so that there was at least six feet of clearance between chairs, tables and bar counter space.
“We added hand sanitiser stations, were wiping down all seats, table tops, menus, door handles and pens after use with alcohol. We had educational Covid-19 signs and messages posted on doors and walls.”