Ready to dance? New health directive loosens restrictions for businesses

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 10:41 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Thanks to a new Shelby County Health Directive, buffets are back and so is dancing.

That news delights one local business owner who is already making plans to hit the dance floor in the coming weeks.

It’s been a long time since the Rumba Room on South Main Street had a packed dance floor late into the night.

Health officials haven’t allowed it because dancing could spell trouble during a pandemic.

“Over a year that dancing wasn’t allowed, especially salsa dancing because it’s touching. You’re holding another person, you’re partner dancing so that was just out of the question,” said Rumba Room Co-owner Edgar Mendez.

Mendez is a trained dancer.

He taught Latin dancing to Mid-Southerners for over 15 years, but in June he was forced to shut down his dance studio on Madison inside Minglewood Hall.

“It was really tough. People were so nice. I started teaching virtual from my house and everybody was very supportive but it’s not the same,” said Mendez.

His club on Main Street took a major hit as well.

To make ends meet he went from a primary bar and dance club to a full-service restaurant.

He set up tables outside and served up Latin-inspired dishes, but people in Memphis know the Rumba room for its dancing and starting Saturday they’ll be able to do just that.

According to the latest health directive dancing will be allowed indoors starting April 17.

Dancers must remain six feet apart unless they’re from the same family unit or close contact group.

That’s welcome news for Mendez who says two weeks ago was the first time he’s turned a profit at the Rumba Room in over a year.

He says a previous health directive extending hours for businesses helped to make that happen.

“And now that we can promote dancing, I think it’s going to make a big impact,” he said.

Directive number 20 also comes with a promise that if the county can prevent another COVID 19 wave then in 30 days they will loosen the restrictions even more or remove them altogether.

Directive 20 also says event planners no longer need to submit a plan to the health department for events of up to 500 people.

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