States Debate Early Closing Times for Bars to Help Stem COVID-19

Bars grapple with “last call” orders banning alcohol sales past certain times

From Rhode Island to Colorado, states and local jurisdictions have been issuing “last call” orders, prohibiting alcohol sales past a certain time. Such curfews are ostensibly to help curb the transmission of the coronavirus, which is easily spread in typical bar conditions: indoors, crowded, people with lowered inhibitions talking and drinking in close proximity for prolonged periods of time. But some bar owners and health experts have expressed doubt about the effectiveness of mandated last calls, and bar owners are frustrated about the financial impact of essentially having to close at 10 or 11 p.m., CNBC reports.

On the public health side, the curfews could be beneficial, but they still don’t address the core problem of people congregating indoors without masks for long periods of time. There’s also a risk that customers could simply go to bars earlier in the evening to drink, potentially making crowding worse, one expert told CNBC.

Bar owners also pointed to the apparent arbitrariness of the early closures, but were more urgently concerned with the financial implications for their businesses, already hard-hit during the early months of the pandemic.

Both these concerns highlight just how badly the U.S. government has handled the pandemic. In the ideal public health scenario, bars wouldn’t be open. In the ideal business owner scenario, bars would still be making money. It seems the obvious solution would be to close such businesses and continue to pay people to stay home — but then again, this is America.

And in other news…

  • The salmonella outbreak linked to Thomson International onions has grown to 43 states and 640 cases in the U.S. and 239 cases in Canada. [NYT]
  • A new report by anti-pollution nonprofits found that PFAS — sometimes called “forever chemicals” — can be found in fast-food and fast-casual packaging, including Cava molded fiber bowls and Big Mac cartons. [The Counter]
  • People are eating a lot more cereal now that they’re stuck at home. [Business Insider]
  • Rachael Ray’s house in upstate New York was reportedly destroyed by a fire on Sunday. [NYup]
  • Restaurant design in the time of COVID-19: greater flexibility, more to-go-only? [QSR Magazine]

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