CITY HALL – Mayor Lyda Krewson is pondering a recommendation by a city health advisory panel that the allowable occupancy for bars and restaurants be cut to 25 percent from 50 percent.
But on Friday, she seemed to lean toward keeping things the way they are.
In her regular update on COVID-19 on her Facebook page, Krewson noted that the number of cases for the city per 100,000 people was lower than in other parts of the region.
In the city, there are 42 cases per day for every 100,000 people. In the county, there are 60 per day, or about 50 percent more. The number is 58 per day in the state overall.
“All of these are too high, but the residences and businesses are doing a good job of following the mitigation strategies of mask wearing, hand washing and keeping your groups small,” Krewson said.
“They’re still not good enough, but when you’re 50 percent less than others in the region and of the state, then I think that we’re trying not to layer on new rules,” Krewson said. “We’re trying to get compliance with those rules that are in effect. It’s not something that we’ve ruled out, but it’s very difficult to enforce percentage.”
On Thursday, the city’s Joint Board of Health and Hospitals made an informal and non-binding recommendation to cut the occupancy to 25 percent from 50 percent. The recommendation was non-binding because there wasn’t a quorum, said Jacob Long, the mayor’s director of communications.
Krewson said that whether a restaurant or bar was 50 percent or 25 percent filed might not be the important thing.
“More important than the percent right now and has been all along is the requirement to stay six feet apart,” Krewson said. “It is the social distancing, because if you had a 50 percent or 25 percent occupancy but you were all huddled down here in this part of the room, that wouldn’t do any good at all.”
Most important, though, Krewson said, is “Can a business even open if they can only do 25 percent of their capacity? Can they even afford to pay the rent, keep the lights on, and have a staff there? We’ve been trying to take a very balanced approach on this, which is to keep businesses open, but keep people safe from COVID by enforcing social distances and mask-wearing.”
One area restaurant owner, Andy Karandzieff, spoke of the difficulty of running a restaurant at a lower occupancy.
“Obviously if that’s what happens, I’m fine with that,” said Karandzieff, the owner of Crown Candy Kitchen. “We all want to do the right thing.”
“A lot of restaurants are trying hard to do the right thing,” Karandzieff said. But, he added, “None of us based our business model on 25 percent occupancy.”
He said he was fortunate that his iconic business could sell candy online.
In Krewson’s report on her Facebook page, the mayor said it was unlikely that the 11 p.m. closing time for bars would be lifted before New Year’s. Christmas will be like Thanksgiving, she said.