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Lake of the Ozarks businesses move forward after social distancing snafu over weekend


Not all Lake of the Ozarks businesses received national attention regarding the lack of social distancing between tourists, but some said Tuesday they foresee what happened over the holiday weekend leaving an impact.

Chris Galloway, owner of Pappo's Pizzeria and Pub, said lake of the ozark business owners know it's a tourist community and that tourists are responsible for their behavior when entering a business.

Gov. Mike Parson's current state order says every person and business in Missouri should abide by social distancing requirements, including maintaining 6 feet of space between individuals.

The order also says restaurants may offer dine-in services while following guidelines including social distancing and 10 people max to a table.

St. Louis County issued a travel advisory on Monday after social distancing rules were not followed well at the Lake of the Ozarks over the holiday weekend. Images and videos showing crowded pools and bars made national headlines.

The St. Louis County advisory urges those who were at the Lake of the Ozarks and ignored social distancing guidelines to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they test negative for COVID-19.

Galloway said this advisory and the other national social media attention worries him as a business owner.

"I know every business owner here is is concerned." Galloway said. "But there are some businesses that had a difficult time controlling number of people that came in and you can't take away people's rights and their freedom. It's up to them. It's up to them what they're gonna do."

Galloway said he thinks everyone was a little surprised with how crowded it was and he said he understands the concerns people have, but he believes at the same time people have their own rights.

Backwater Jacks Bar & Grill posted a statement on its Facebook page Monday in response to the coverage.

The business said that no laws were broken and that social distancing is not a crime. It also said that it hired medical staff to conduct non-contact thermal checks at the entrances to the pool. 

“This upset many customers, however it was an additional layer we chose to implement,” Gary Prewitt, the owner, wrote. “Anyone with above a 100.4 temperature was refused entry.”

The company also said that it had hand sanitizer available.

The company said that its business is seasonal and nearly a third of its season has already been lost. According to the statement, staff has been affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

“The initial shut down has already had a tremendous impact on many of our staff and their families. All staff were given a choice of whether they wanted to work without any negative consequences if they chose not to,” Prewitt said.

Russell Burdette, owner of Your Lake Vacation Home and Condo rental, said while there was some craziness that occurred this weekend, he doesn't think that it is representative of everyone.

Parson made similar comments at his briefing Tuesday.

Burdette said the publicity might bring even more people to the lake.

"There are probably a lot of people that never even knew it existed that will now know it and, and they may wait a while but I think that now that it's in their mind that they'll come visit, which is great," Burdette said.

Burdette said Lake of the Ozarks has received some poor press in the past year related to a spot called Party Cove, but he said for the most part once people see how beautiful the area is and what it offers they will enjoy their visit.

Burdette said enjoying the three state parks for hiking, going out on the lake with family and friends on a boat, waterskiing, jet skiing and parasailing are all things people can do while practicing social distancing.

"We have a lot of outdoor things to do," Burdette said "And you know, Disney World has closed and some of the places that they might have gone like that, so they'll look at us as an alternative to vacation."

Greg Surdyke, owner of Surdyke Yahama Wave Runners, said he had customers come from all over to get out of their homes and have fun. 

Surdyke said the holiday weekend was profitable for his business, while social distancing and extra cleaning precautions were enforced. 

Surdyke said most Memorial Day weekends, young people are coming to the lake to start summer break. This year families came early as most were tired of being in the house, he said.  

Surdyke said it's important for people to be able to get out in the sun and have fun but using common sense is just as important. 

"The Lake of the Ozarks economy won't survive without the tourists coming," Surdyke said. "We do know what's important. We also know it's important to keep our doors open, we've got to be here to serve the humans that want to go out and have fun."

Surdyke said he’s a believer in learning from mistakes and not repeating them. He said business owners need to find out what works for them moving forward but also what needs to change.

Galloway said it will still be up to each individual to make their decisions.

"I don't want to seem flippant about it," Galloway said. "But that's really what it boils down to. You can't control everybody. As far as what will happen in the next three weeks, we'll see."

Galloway said he learned a long time ago that he can't control everything. So he says he will control what he can.

Lake of the Ozarks / Mid-Missouri Business / Missouri / News / Osage / Top Stories
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Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


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