Governor Ralph Northam announced new statewide coronavirus restrictions last weekend, which went into effect Monday, that will impact a number of retail businesses throughout the Commonwealth.
“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” the governor said in a press release.
Restaurants and bars will especially be affected because one part of the updated mandate prohibits the on-site sale, consumption and possession of alcohol after 10 p.m. and says those establishments must close by midnight.
Some bar and restaurant owners in Virginia are not happy with Northam’s decision.
Christopher Mcgrath, who owns four restaurants – three in Chesapeake and one in downtown Norfolk – called the new restrictions a huge hit.
“The 10 p.m. closure, it hurts us tremendously,” Mcgrath told The Virginia Star. “It is almost like saying that restaurants aren’t doing their job and aren’t following the mandate.”
“I feel that it’s unfair to business owners. I mean restaurants are not a necessity where people have to go,” Mcgrath continued. “I completely understand grocery stories, gas stations and banks and places that people absolutely have to go, but nobody has to be in a restaurant at 11 o’clock at night. So, we should be able to run our business and not have to close down.”
Mcgrath said that his restaurant in downtown Norfolk, Tapitlocal, is one of the only establishments in the immediate area that stays open late during the week and roughly 35 to 40 percent of revenues comes from late-night food and alcohol sales.
It will be the second time this year Mcgrath will have lost significant revenue from alcohol sales because of COVID restrictions. The first instance occurred when Northam ordered a similar mandate for the Hampton Roads region back in July, which lasted seven weeks.
Chris Stewart, owner of The Beach House in Glen Allen, told The Star he hopes the restrictions will be temporary.
“As long as this is a mandate that lasts a couple weeks, we will bounce back from that,” Stewart said. “If it’s something that lasts a couple months, [there] will be huge problems for basically every restaurant, including ours.”
Stewart also mentioned that the restrictions will impact the wages of his servers and bartenders.
Fellow Hampton Roads restaurant owner, Dustin Hughes, said his primary concern is not the impact of Northam’s mandate, but, instead, what will happen in the coming weeks.
“This in itself isn’t going to make us go out of business or anything, but my big concern is this is just the beginning, [like] what we saw in the spring,” Hughes told The Star. “I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the week there’s more restrictions. Actually, I’d be kind of surprised if there is not. My concern is we’re just starting all over again from where we were back in April.”
Hughes added: “If they’re worried about cases, it’s not the restaurants that have 20 or 30 people in it, but the damn Walmart that has 500 people in it.”
When another complete shutdown was mentioned, Hughes said that would be absolutely devastating and the only reason he was able to get through the spring shutdown was because money from the Paycheck Protection Program.
Besides the on-site alcohol curfew, the new restrictions also limit gatherings of 25 people or less, indoors and outdoors, and requires all Virginians above the age of five to wear face coverings while inside public spaces.
Additionally, violations for essential businesses – including grocery stores and pharmacies – not adhering to the guidelines of physical distancing, wearing face coverings or masks, and enhanced cleaning will be enforceable as a Class One misdemeanor, which carries punishments of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
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