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Nashville bars shuttered, restaurants reduced to 50% capacity and bar seating closed


Jul 2, 2020

Metro Nashville has issued clarifying guidance for re-entering revised Phase Two, which begins July 3, 2020.

Citing the spike in cases reported after the Memorial Day holiday, Mayor Cooper intends to prevent a new outbreak from large crowds celebrating the Fourth of July in Nashville’s Lower Broad.

Dr. Alex Jahangir, head of the Metro Coronavirus Task Force, reported that public health workers have detected at least 30 new infections of Nashville residents across 10 different bars over the past week. Media reports that several Nashville restaurants and bars have closed in the last few days because of COVID-positive staff. In an effort to further discourage large gatherings, Mayor Cooper asked the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation to cancel its fireworks display on Saturday evening.

The revised Metro guidance is clear. If you hold a Limited Service License, you are closed beginning July 3 through July 31. Bars can provide curbside or delivery of food and alcohol.

If you hold a Restaurant License, you can stay open at the lesser of 50% capacity or maximum occupancy with social distancing. Bar seating at restaurants is closed. Live entertainment is allowed, with a 15 foot buffer or a plexiglass or similar barrier. Pool tables, darts and other amusements are closed until July 31.

We read the order as allowing guests to be seated at tables in bar areas - just no one sitting at the bar. Guests seated at tables in bar areas must have a server. There can be no guest interaction with the bartender.

Beer bars - bars that only sell beer and not wine or spirits - must also be closed. Sorry Santa’s Pub.

A copy of the Health Director's order is here

If bars reopen on August 1, closing time will be 10 pm and all patrons will be required to be seated. Bars can feature live entertainment, with a 15 foot buffer or a plexiglass or similar barrier. Pool tables, darts and other amusements are closed until July 31.

We encourage bar owners to implement policies to enforce the no standing rule and modifications to to live entertainment, which include sanitizing between performers.

It looks like closing time for restaurants will also be 10 pm, starting July 17. 

Metro Nashville originally said that bars will be closed for 14 days. With no clear definition of what constitutes a bar, many owners were left scratching their heads trying to decide if they should lay off staff and lose out on much-needed revenue over the long holiday weekend.

Many bar owners were plowing forward and planning on pushing food sales, to remain open as restaurants.  While some bars have sufficient food service to justify staying open as a restaurant, we suspect that more-nefarious owners might have been tempted to game the system. 

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