Shelby County Health Dept. stands behind directive to close bars

Shelby County Health Dept. stands behind directive to close bars

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Some limited service restaurants that have remained open throughout the pandemic now have to close. In its latest health directive, the Shelby County Health Department is putting more restrictions on restaurants and making bars close.

On Thursday, the Shelby County Health Department maintained its stance that in its new health directive the bars that have to close are those with a limited service restaurant alcohol license.

“In 48 hours I haven’t had one person flat out tell me you can do this. You can’t do this,” Kimmi Cummings, owner of Cheers of Millington, said.

When a Shelby County health directive closing bars defined bars as limited service restaurants, according to the state Alcohol Beverage Commission, Cummings knew her place would be on the list.

“People come here just to eat. They also come here to drink. They also come to drink then eat,” Cummings said.

While the liquor license for Cheers of Millington says it makes more than 50 percent of its revenue from alcohol, the business has stayed open throughout the pandemic offering curbside and delivery when dining rooms were shut down. Cheers of Millington followed the directive and is now closed, but Cummings still has questions about the directive.

“Can we do curbside? Can we do curbside with just food? Can we do liquor,” Cummings asked.

Thursday, in an email to WMC Action News 5, the Shelby County Health Department’s Public Information Officer Joan Carr said those operating with a limited service restaurant license can prepare food for curbside orders.

When asked if the list of bars will expand beyond those in Shelby County with a state liquor by drink limited service restaurant license, the Shelby County Health Department remained hardlined the directive is based on the licensing of the establishment.

“All those facilities know how they’re licensed,” Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said. “Refer to the health directive and FAQs and how it aligns with the directive.”

Shelby County Health Dept. stands behind directive to close bars

Not on the state list are Beale Street bars. The state Alcohol Beverage Commission said they are exempt from the food and alcohol percentage because they are in a designated historical area.

While Cummings is closed, she’s being surrounded by Millington businesses..

“Clearly I’m going to stand in solidarity and support with Cheers of Millington,” Trey Asbridge owner of Deliver Me said.

“It’s not fair to other restaurants and bars in our area,” Candida Royal with Pops Bar and Grill said.

Cummings now has the options to continue with curbside and delivery orders. She said If that wasn’t an options it’s likely the bar would have closed for good.

The leader of the Memphis Restaurant Association is also trying to clear up confusion about the new health directive. Part of it asks restaurants to collect information from patrons to help with contact tracing of COVID 19.

Some Shelby County restaurants have started getting names and numbers of everyone who sits and eats with them. President of the Memphis Restaurant Association Ernie Mellor said it’s going to take some getting used to, but urges restaurants to follow this latest health directive.

“I wouldn’t have an issue with that personally,” Memphis resident Brandi Johnson said.

In its latest Health Directive the Shelby County Health Department is asking restaurants and other businesses where there is close contact between people to get the names and numbers of patrons to help with contact tracing.

“We ask the public help us by simply giving them a name and number,” Mellor said.

The Health Directive says facilities must collect at minimum a name, time and date of attendance and cell phone number, so in the event a COVID-19 case is identified in the building those who may be at risk can be contacted.

Some restaurants have started this process. Some having sign in sheets for customers.

Some restaurants told WMC Action News 5 some customers have been hesitant to give away this information, and others have refused.

“If someone refuses to give their name and contact information that’s not necessarily not a reason to not serve the person, but we want to do whatever we can to have contact information,” Dr. Haushalter said.

The directive also closes all restaurants by 10 p.m. Mellor said he trusts the data driving the health directives and urges restaurants and the public to work together to get through this.

“We just want to encourage everyone to visit the restaurants,” Mellor said. “We’re going to be safe. We want you to be safe.”

“It’s different but everything is different now right,” Memphis resident Tim Wilkinson said.

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