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Columbia bar changes operations to reopen under COVID-19 order

Harpo's Bar & Grill reopens Monday with new operations.
Harpo's Bar & Grill reopens Monday with new operations.


Boone County's newest order does not let bars reopen.

At least one says it is changing its business model to adjust to the order, which will be in place indefinitely.

According to Chapter 4 of city ordinances, a bar is considered a restaurant if 50% of its revenue comes from food or its annual gross income related to food totals at least $200,000.

Harpo's Bar & Grill reopened Monday, but Charlie Smith, the assistant general manager, said it will not operate as business per usual.

"As the mayor and the director of the Department of Health and Human Services laid out in their guidelines, we're opening at 25% of our max capacity," Smith said.

Smith said Harpo's is now operating more as a traditional restaurant than a bar. There will be no service at the bar, although bartenders will fill server tickets, and people have to stay at their own tables.

Harpo's is spacing out tables in accordance with the order. Hosts have a counter at the front of the building at all times and use a seating chart that, once full, means the restaurant is nearing its 25% capacity.

Servers are also wearing gloves that they change each time they serve a new customer.

"Harpo's has been known as more of a bar in the past, but with that, when we transitioned to the takeout and deliver model, we still wanted to serve people in Columbia," Smith said.

The bar and grill is also ready to kick people out of the establishment if necessary.

"If we have to speak to you twice, you'll be politely asked to leave," Smith said.

The city and county health department says it will be taking complaints about businesses not following guidelines. If officials observe something that needs correction during routine inspections of facilities, they will address the issue during the inspection. 

Another Columbia restaurant, Murry's, opened for limited-capacity dine-in Monday as well. Bill Sheals, a co-owner, said Murry's is taking it one step at a time.

"With the fire code, we're allowed 36 and a half people," Sheals said.

Similarly to Harpo's, Murry's is putting out 36 chairs in its spaced-out seating chart and, once full, there will be a wait. At Murry's, everyone in the front-of-house is wearing masks and there is no bar seating.

The owner said to-go orders are still the main form of business for the restaurant.

"Thirty-six seats is nothing," Sheals said. "When we have 150, we still have an hour and a half wait sometimes, so I can't imagine what a weekend with only 36 seats available is going to do. Take-out is still the prime option."

According to Boone County's order that went into effect Monday, bars, large venues, movie theaters and playgrounds must remain closed until further notice.

Personal care businesses, nail salons and barbershops must require employees to wear a mask where social distancing is not possible. They also have a limit of 10 or fewer people in the shop at one time or 50% of occupancy, whichever is less.

Non-retail businesses, retail stores, gyms and restaurants all may reopen, provided they maintain social distancing and fire occupancy limit orders.

Here are the fire occupancy limits:

  • Businesses less than 10,000 square feet can only have 25% or less people than the building's fire code occupancy.
  • Businesses more than 10,000 square feet can only have 10% or less people than the building's fire code occupancy.

Check back here or on ABC 17 News at 5 and 6 for more on this developing story.

Boone / Business / Columbia / Economy / Mid-Missouri Business / News / Top Stories
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Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekday morning anchor and a reporter at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.


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