ASHLAND, Mo. (KMIZ)
Boone County bars and restaurants face new regulations as COVID-19 cases continue to increase and health officials see violations in large gatherings.
The new health order released on Friday states that bars and restaurants that sell alcohol in Boone County should stop selling alcohol at 9 p.m. and close at 10 p.m. each night.
Dance floors will be closed under the new order, limits on the number of people in entertainment and public and private gatherings too.
Scott Clardy, the Columbia and Boone County Health Department’s assistant director said the order extended throughout the county to limit COVID-19 from spreading in late night businesses where they’ve seen violations happen.
Clardy said if the order was just for Columbia, health officials were afraid people would go elsewhere in the county while continuing the large gatherings.
“There are several other restaurants and bars outside of Columbia that are still in Boone County," Clardy said. "And so people who would have gone into Columbia for that, would just go out to these county places and do it. And so that would mean that there was still these gatherings occur over time.”
Natalie Winscott, an employee at Woody's Pub and Grub in Ashland, said the order extending throughout the county is frustrating and raises many questions for the restaurant.
"I mean how many more regulations are we gonna be put on," Winscott asked. "How can we say open like this? It's hard to keep up with everything. They change our restrictions so much that no one even knows what we're supposed to do."
Clardy said the reason for implementing another order with these regulations is to cut down on the gatherings. He said it's the gatherings that are causing the spread of the virus.
“What we were seeing was, it was late night gatherings, in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol,” said Clardy. “There was a lot of potential for disease spread there.”
Winscott said she's worried that customers may start to go to Jefferson City or other towns that do not have these types of restrictions and that large gatherings at night will still occur as college students are back in Columbia.
"I think people are still going to go have house parties," Winscott said. "I think that people are still going to find a way to have a late night crowd. I don't think that corona is just gonna stop spreading at 10 o'clock."
Winscott said it's also frustrating that most COVID-19 cases in Boone County are ages 18 to 22 and that Woody's customers are not usually within that age group.
Woody's serves food until nine, so Winscott said having last call at 8:45pm is definitely different.
"Having to kick people out like hurry them up to.. eat is is frustrating and hard," Winscott said. "You don't want to treat your customers like that, so it was really hard. All these things are just keep adding up that we can't make the income that businesses need to make to stay open."
Clardy said if bars and restaurants adjust their hours to open earlier and large gatherings increase at an earlier time, the health department will have to continue to look at what happens and possibly make adjustments to the order.
Masks will still be required in Columbia under its city ordinance and the city's health order and are "strongly encouraged" in Boone County under the new order.