COLUMBIA, MO (KMIZ)
Boone County bars and restaurants are preparing for their first weekend of normal business hours since last spring.
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department this week released a revised county health order that relaxes some of the restrictions on businesses. The order allows bars to stay open as late as they want. The previous order had required them to close at midnight.
The order also allows for larger numbers in public and private gatherings. Gatherings are now limited to 50 people, instead of 20, as set previously. Large venues can now host up to 200 people instead of 100.
Bars and restaurants can also resume standing bar service and buffet service. Mask and social distancing requirements remain in place.
Local bars plan to continue strictly enforcing masks and social distancing for customers with the bar services reopening. An employee at On The Rocks, said the bar has socially distanced all bar seating and there is a separate area that is socially distanced for customers who want to order at the bar. Many bars downtown have socially distanced all seating within its' establishment.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is encouraged by the new health order extension. Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick said the relaxed restrictions will allow for more events to take place in Columbia. McCormick said this is a move in the right direction as hospitalizations and COVID-19 case rates continue to decline.
Boone County reported 12 new coronavirus cases Friday. The five-day average of new daily cases was 14 on Friday; it peaked at nearly 170 in November. Eighty county residents have died because of the virus.
McCormick also suspects that the health order extension could allow for more people to get out and spend money with downtown businesses.
"That's the goal, we always encourage everyone to shop local, eat local, all those things because with more hours and larger crowds that they can start having that helps them out financially,", said McCormick.