RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is taking a late step to keep people from gathering at bars as the state prepares to enter Phase 3 of its reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor said Tuesday the state's restaurants will not be allowed to fully reopen their bars as previously planned. He announced the decision Tuesday afternoon, a day before the state was set to allow people to congregate at bars as long as they practiced social distancing. Instead, restaurants can continue to operate under Phase 2 restrictions, which allows limited table service in bar areas but generally prohibits sitting at bar counters.
Virginia does not allow establishments to only serve alcohol, they all must serve food.
Northam's office said the decision to keep stricter rules on bars was made because of a spike in virus cases in other states that have reopened earlier than Virginia. Over the past few days, states such as Florida, Arizona, Texas and California have closed or otherwise clamped down on bars, shut beaches, rolled back restaurant capacity, and put limits on crowds at pools.
"I am watching what is happening in other states — we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase 3 and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas," Northam said in a statement.
Eric Terry, president of the Virginia, Lodging and Travel Association, said bars are a major profit maker for restaurants and keeping them closed longer will hurt the industry's bottom line. The late notice will also hurt, he said, as restaurants will now have to scramble to adjust their staff and inventory.
"I don't understand why it was done so late," Terry said.
Under Phase 3, restaurants and nonessential retail stores no longer have to limit indoor capacity to 50% of what their space can hold but would still have to keep customers 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
Gyms can go from 30% capacity to 75%, and social gatherings of up to 250 people are allowed. Outdoor swimming pools can operate with fewer restrictions at 75% their normal capacity.
The Virginia Department of Health on Tuesday reported nearly 63,000 total cases of COVID-19, with just over 6,200 total hospitalizations and 1,760 deaths.
In explaining his decision to move forward with reopening, Northam said recently the state's percent of positive tests was declining and cited a falling number of people hospitalized with positive or pending cases of COVID-19. He also said Virginia's testing, contact tracing and supply of personal protective equipment were adequate, and that hospitals have sufficient bed capacity.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and even be fatal.
From the archives: Nostalgia on the menu
Were you a fan of Biff Burger? Did you love The Sweet Life? Late-night fan of Howard Johnson? These eateries, once the haunts of hungry Lynchburgers, now are fading memories.
Here is a gallery of some of the places people used to go for a quick bite or a fancy date night with someone special. Most are long gone, but a few remain. What memories do these photos evoke for you?
1958-12-05 Big Boy
1960-12-25 Stagecoach Inn
1961-03-09 Biff Burger
1962-08-16 High's Ice Cream
1962-08-16 High's Ice Cream
1962-11-04 Colonial Lounge
1962-11-18 Pastry Shop
1963-10-23 Lendy's Madison Heights
1966-10-20 Chatter Box opens
1968-05-19 Howard Johnson
1968-10-27 Arby's under construction
1969-02-23 Arby's opens
1970-03-15 Luv'n Oven
1970-08-02 Buddy's Burger House
1970-09-28 Weenie Stand
1970-12-27 Town and Country
1971-04-04 Buddy's Burger House
1972-06-02 Long John Silver's
1972-07-17 Fass Brothers Fish House
1973-10-28 Aberdeen Barn
1973-11-08 Peddler Steak House
1973-12-02 King's Grant
1976-02-18 Peking-American Restaurant
1976-06-24 Wiener King
1976-08-29 Ground Round
1977-01-30 Le Chateau Great Steaks
1977-03-23 Portsmouth Fish Co
1978-12-03 The Sweet Life
1979-03-09 Myrt's Hot Dogs
1979-07-29 Taco Rey
1980-07-22 J. Ruggles
1980-11-02 Texas Inn counter
1982-11-11 Country Kitchen
1984-03-24 Mary Jane's
1985 Fisher's Restaurant
1989-04-02 Ginger's Restaurant
1990-07-22 Peaks of Otter Lodge
1991-01-23 New London cooks
1991-07-18 Avenue Ribs
1993-06-02 Old Country Buffet
2008-06-02 Toy Town
2012-03-14 Jumbo's Restaurant
2012-09-23 Jumbo's Restaurant
2020-03-11 TGI Fridays
~~ VERTICAL GALLERY: HIDE TITLES, UP FONT SIZE ~~
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.