COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to the city council asking for a "framework" toward extending bar and restaurant hours and other concessions related to the city's COVID-19 health order.
The letter, which the chamber said was sent to the council Monday, was released in an email to chamber members Tuesday. In it, the chamber asks the council to work toward increasing bar and restaurant hours, end random inspections for health order violations at bars and restaurants and to better communicate expectations and enforce standards evenly.
Matt Jenne, owner of Addison's and Sophia's as well as the Regional Economic Development Inc. Board Chair said businesses can act proactively with the city and the health department to help craft policies that will allow everyone to remain safe and for businesses to operate safely with the businesses' inputs.
"We know better how our businesses are operated," Jenne said. "And we can offer, you know, some expertise on what we think will work and what we don't."
The chamber is asking for complaint-based inspections instead of random site visits.
Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol must stop hosting customers at 10:30 p.m. under health orders in effect in Columbia and Boone County. They can still engage in delivery, curbside and carryout sales.
The orders also require that groups at bars and restaurants be limited to 10 people and that patrons wear masks when not seated. The Columbia order requires the use of masks anywhere social distancing is not possible.
"Our bars and restaurants, in particular, have far and wide followed all rules and ordinances imposed by the City Council and Health Department in response to COVID-19," chamber President Matt McCormick wrote in the letter.
McCormick said if there are companies that are not following the order, then they need to make sure they're working through that and that the health department's working on that.
But he said it's also important to work with the bars and restaurants if there is a violation, on how they work through that make it better and how can they work together to find a way to get everybody on the path.
McCormick said the actions of bars and restaurants demonstrate "a mutual commitment and steadfast support to addressing COVID-19 concerns."
The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services has cited 20 businesses and organizations with health order violations since June. Six of those businesses are bars and restaurants.
The letter included extending the businesses' hours of operation. Jenne said Columbia business owners believe they are capable of operating safely through midnight.
He said midnight is a better time, not only for the businesses' ability to serve it's customers well, but also they believe it's going to be safer for customers to be at the businesses.
"College students specifically," said Jenne. "We feel like they would be safer if we were taking care of them in our bars and restaurants. After 10:30 where... if they're not at our bar or restaurant there are at a house party. 10:30 is not stopping them from gathering."
McCormick said it’s important for city leaders, the chamber and business owners to continue having conversations hopefully before orders are put in place so that the information is widely known and to help the city as they try to work and navigate through the orders.