MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Limited-service restaurants and bars in Shelby County are back in business this week after a nearly three-month closure. But the latest county health directive requires major changes to their operations, and businesses that don’t follow the guidelines could lose their state liquor licenses.
“Enforcement will be very seriously pursued,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, the county’s health officer, “We are partnering with ABC, and they’re going to help us enforce this."
The establishments must keep bar areas closed, serve alcohol with food at a table, permit customers to sit for a maximum of two hours and stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. Indoor dancing is prohibited, as well as loud music.
The Shelby County Health Department said they are prepared to close businesses that don’t follow the rules and will have enforcement teams out with an eye for what’s permitted and what is not.
“All licensees must follow local laws, including health orders, as a condition of maintaining a TABC license. It’s true that, depending on the circumstances, a licensee could receive a fine, suspension, or revocation for a violation of local law. This year we have continued to work with local authorities as they issued various executive orders, including the most recent orders issued by Shelby County,” said Aaron Rummage, Director of Legislation, Policy, and Communication with the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).
Public health officials suggested customers should only patronize businesses operating in accordance with the directive.
“It’s important as consumers you exercise your consumer rights and ensure the businesses that you go to are adhering to the health directive,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department Director.
Thursday, Haushalter defended the decision to lift restrictions on limited service restaurants, despite a list of conditions outlined in a trip wire document released earlier this summer not being fully met.
Haushalter said the document was developed as a guidance document to move policy decisions more quickly.
“The trip wires are not a checklist. There was never a communication from me or the health department that 100 percent of those trip wires had to be met in successive order. We’ve always said they’re in context,” she said.
The department said they’ll watch numbers of new COVID-19 cases through early October and see if there are impacts on transmission because of the opening of limited service restaurants. If so, they’re prepared to make changes to how the establishments can operate again.