Bar owners in Washoe County asked the governor’s COVID-19 Task Force on Thursday to let them reopen saying they are committed to following the rules but that if they can’t open soon, a large number of them will go out of business.
Matt Johnson of Imbibe Brewery said he represents a group of bar owners who have agreed to enforce the standards and committed to accountability.
“We need a fighting chance to show we can operate safely,” he said.
He said restaurants are open and serving alcohol to customers and that bars can do the same just as safely
Will Truce, head of the brewery district coalition, said bars and taverns he represents are “committed to reopening safely if we’re given the chance.”
“Please give our industry the chance to follow these protocols,” he said.
Jeff Carter of Reno said his establishment has been closed 20 of the last 25 weeks and he is losing about $10,000 a month. He said if they don’t open pretty soon, “every bar that doesn’t serve food in the state will go bankrupt.”
But the task force ruled that it won’t happen for at least two more weeks.
They put off a vote on reopening bars in Clark, Nye and Elko counties. Washoe County officials didn’t ask to reopen this weekend.
But Clark County got a break, winning a request to reopen countertop service in non-bar locations such as sushi bars next Wednesday.
Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said the ban on countertop service but not table service makes no sense.
The Task Force rejected Nye’s request to reopen bars in Pahrump. Bars in Nye’s small communities such as Amargosa Valley and Tonopah were allowed to reopen last week. The vast majority of Nye’s infections are in Pahrump.
Task Force Director Caleb Cage praised the progress Washoe, Nye, Elko and Clark counties have made in the past week.
He especially praised the Washoe bar owners who have voluntarily formed groups committed to enforcing restrictions if they are allowed to reopen.
He and other members of the task force said they want Nye and Elko counties to develop more details especially about enforcement and contact tracing. He said rural communities in Elko were reportedly not following the restrictions. But Elko officials pointed out that some of those communities have few if any infections. They said Carlin has one infection while jackpot and Wells have zero.
Elko officials were told they still have a test positivity rate of 18 percent highest in the state and more than double the 7 percent the CDC says qualifies for reduced restrictions.
Washoe District Health Officer Kevin Dick said cases are down 40 percent from a month ago and enforcement efforts have increased substantially including teams that follow complaints about party houses and shut them down. Washoe’s Eric Brown said Reno has been pretty successful in tracking down party houses.
But both said they aren’t asking to reopen this weekend, that they will continue to refine their reopening plan for another two weeks.
Health officials including Nevada’s biostatistician and representatives from the Gaming Control Board all said after thousands of inspections of different businesses, compliance with restrictions and social distancing has greatly improved. Business and Industry Director Terry Reynolds also pointed out the improvement in compliance by all sorts of businesses.
Cage agreed since the bars were shut down a second time, the counties have made excellent progress in enforcement, testing, contact tracing and other efforts. But he said Nevada found out how quickly that can change in July.
“There has been tremendous work on the state level but we can very quickly be four weeks away from starting to climb again,” he said.
He said especially the major counties, Clark and Washoe, need a little more time before reopening.