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What’s Up Downtown: Bars rely on mindful patrons to survive (Voices)

Alex Stettinski

Special to the NNBW

Alex Stettinski is executive director for the Downtown Reno Partnership.
Courtesy photo

Bars, taverns, pubs, breweries, distilleries and wineries in Washoe County reopened under new COVID-19 operating guidelines in mid-September after months of struggling through an ongoing shutdown by the state.

Now is the time to cautiously help keep these businesses afloat by patronizing them safely.

“If all patrons were kind and mindful enough to always wear a mask, they would help keep small businesses in business,” Jesse Corletto, owner of Record Street Brewing Co., told us.

Record Street Brewing Co. in downtown Reno is a restaurant, bar and music venue and is no stranger to all of the chaos, changing guidelines, standards and expectations from the local governments.

They’ve done their best to not only open during the global pandemic, but also keep up with all the ever-changing dynamics to keep themselves in business. They’re also doing their best to support other businesses around them, by keeping Black Rabbit Meads on tap when the meadery could not open prior to recent rules.

Local government entities partnered with the Washoe County Bar and Taproom Coalition, a group of bar owners that tried to reopen bars safely, and drafted COVID-19 mitigation and safety measures, which were approved by Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office in September.

Among the changes customers can expect:

  • Masks must be worn
  • Bars will operate at 50 percent of fire code capacity
  • Social distancing of 6-feet must be maintained between tables and groups
  • Groups of 6 or fewer can be seated at tables and must arrive at the same time
  • Groups of 3 or fewer can sit at bar counter; individuals must social distance at least 6 feet
  • No standing or congregating outside of tables, countertops
  • No interactive games (billiards, darts, video games)
  • Gaming devices regulated by Gaming Control Board must have plexiglass between devices, or block every other machine

If customers make the choice to violate the county’s guidelines and the businesses’ guidelines, they are not only putting themselves at risk for COVID-19 infection, but also risking those business owners’ livelihoods. Business found in violation of the above rules could be shut down or incur fines.

The local jurisdictions (Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks) oversee enforcement, which was directed by the state. People who wish to file a complaint about a business not following the guidelines can do so online or call the respective jurisdictions where the bar is located. It is equally as important for us to keep each other accountable if a business is making people feel unsafe.

City staff are randomly visiting bars to check for compliance and are giving warnings or fines; often because customers are not following posted guidelines or enforcement from employees.

If you want those bars to survive so you can enjoy them in the future, it’s an easy choice to simply wear a mask, not congregate at the bar and follow the directions of the employees.

In all the examples we’ve seen downtown, business owners are going above and beyond the county’s rules, such as asking customers to keep masks on until their drinks have been served.

This is for the protection of the employees. Don’t forget that those people are working in crowded environments both in order to make a living and for your convenience and enjoyment. They are being exposed to a lot more people on a daily basis.

The Washoe County Health District urged the reopening of bars due to the disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases in Washoe County related to private parties and gatherings at residences. The Health District argued that bars with strict COVID-19 mitigation measures in place (face coverings, social distancing, etc.) could be a safer alternative.

And in fact, we are seeing a spike in cases due to Labor Day gatherings, which could cause a potential third wave in Washoe County.

It’s a strange thing to say, but it’s possible that bars, especially those with outdoor patios or larger spaces, could be safer than gathering at home with strangers.

There’s a different expectation when we’re out and about these days, even tighter safety expectations than when businesses started reopening in June and July.

There’s currently no reason to think that environment will change in the near future, so now we must focus on ways to adapt and patronize businesses safely in order to keep our favorite haunts above water.

“What’s Up Downtown” is a monthly Voices column in the NNBW authored by Alex Stettinski, executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership. Reach him for comment at astettinski@downtownreno.org.


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