Columbia bars and restaurants plan to continue limitations after health order relaxes

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Several eateries in downtown Columbia were busy with customers on Sunday, but on Tuesday more people will be allowed inside after months of health orders.

The Boone County Health Department's current health order expires Monday night and will be replaced by a new relaxed order which does not put an occupancy limit on bars and restaurants.

While restaurants can operate with no capacity limitations, the health department says each must follow social distancing requirements.

Standing bar, counter and buffet service will continue to be closed under this order.

One of the owners of The Heidelberg in downtown Columbia, Richard Walls, said that even with the order lifting capacity restrictions, they may only add a table or two to continue to keep people socially distant.

"We'll still make sure we are following all the health guidelines," Walls said. "We want to try to keep everyone as safe as possible, our customers and also our employees."

Walls said his employees will continue to wear masks and continue the heightened cleanliness best practices that were established during COVID-19. He hopes Columbia is on the right road to recovery.

"I think everyone's goal is keep everyone as healthy and be as ready as possible for this fall, hopefully when things can pick up more... and we can open up more of the business," Walls said.

Another bar in downtown Columbia, DogMaster Distillery, will stick with limited seating and curbside service for the foreseeable future.

One of the owners, Lisa Driskel Hawxby, said they are going with a "slow and steady" approach to reopening to the public to keep their staff and customers as safe as possible.

"We have been steady, which is wonderful, but we have not yet had a crowd in a sense where we were concerned about being able to seat people and maintain a social distancing," Driskel Hawxby said. "So I think we are just going to continue that slow and steady idea."

While she is hopeful the pandemic is slowing down in Mid-Missouri, she said the business would quickly revert back to ways to keep staff and patrons as safe as possible.

"Our customers comfort and their belief in us is our number one priority so if it comes to a point where that is not happening or we have a health concern... we don't want to put anyone in jeopardy," Driskel Hawxby said.

In a press release announcing the new order on Thursday, the health department recognized a rise in cases in Boone County. The department said they believe they are hitting all of the targets toward reopening but continue to monitor the data.

The COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on small businesses across the nation. Driskel Hawxby said while they were lucky to be able to transition to making hand sanitizer, another closure of their tasting room would be hard to take as a lot of their revenue comes from cocktail sales, as well as sales to other restaurants and stores.

"If folks started staying home again, we have another stay at home order, then obviously that will impact us," Driskel Hawxby said. "We're Scrappy, we've always been scrappy, so I think we will figure it out, but it certainly wouldn't be easy."

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