(KTAL/KMSS) – Some bar owners in Arkansas are questioning the usefulness of a new curfew requiring businesses licensed to sell alcohol or allow consumption of alcohol to close by 11 p.m. as concerns over a renewed COVID-19 surge continues.
The new directive issued Thursday by Gov. Asa Hutchinson requires bars, restaurants, and private clubs with “on-premise” permits to close by 11 p.m. starting Friday. The new order runs through January 3. Violators could face between $100-500 or up to a month in jail.
Bar owners say they feel like they have taken two steps forward only to go ten steps back because they had finally been allowed to open back up in May with minimal restrictions only to now have to close by 11 p.m.
“I mean, we were doing so good,” said Broadway Sports Bar and Billiards owner Christal Giles. “And we were having a lot of business coming in. We had a lot of bands, a lot of concerts, and just I felt like we were going back to normal.”
Hutchinson said going to bars and clubs are considered a high-risk activity for contracting or spreading COVID-19, but some bar owners say the larger crowds typically come earlier than 11 p.m.
“You have a bigger crowd between like 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m,” said Giles. “I mean like, you have to think like, people who are coming out, they have kids. A lot of people who are coming out, you might have a lot of younger generations going out.”
Still, bars are adjusting their hours to comply with the new executive order. Giles said they’re opening earlier, at noon instead of at 3 p.m., in hopes of compensating for the lost late-night hours and in order to continue to serve their loyal customers.