How statewide COVID-19 restrictions could affect restaurant, lodging industries

COVID-19 Restrictions

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam announced Friday he is tightening coronavirus restrictions in Virginia after a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across the state.

“We know this virus is spreading in indoor places, like restaurants, where people take off their masks," Northam said. “It’s spreading at small social gatherings like dinner parties, and it’s spreading when people ignore the science and don’t think they need to wear a mask inside.”

Eric Terry, the president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, says restaurants and bars will take the biggest hit. Starting Monday, those establishments must stop on-site alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and close by midnight on Sunday.

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association serves as a unified voice for restaurant, lodging, travel, and hospitality industries throughout Virginia. Terry said the new restrictions will hurt the restaurants and lodging industries still trying to adjust to the pandemic.

“The capacity numbers are largely unchanged. Restaurants will still be able to have the same number of peoples indoor and their outdoor seating. What really has changed for restaurants is the 10 p.m. alcohol curfew, where they have to have all the alcohol off the table at that point,” said Terry. “We were just now beginning to get business back indoors, and alcohol sales are an important part of the profitability of a restaurant.”

The 10 p.m. curfew also includes the on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol in breweries, wineries, and bars.

Terry says he’s expecting the job security –– particularly of bartenders and late-night staff –– to be impacted as well.

“This is going to be an adjustment and probably more impactful to the employees than anything else,” said Terry. “This is going to lead to some staff layoffs or shorter hours for staff, bartenders who may have been scheduled to stay until midnight or 2 a.m. are cut off at 10 p.m.”

All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings. This limit does not affect schools, churches, capacity at businesses, and offices.

“Hotels had just started to book some group meeting and some other things that they had on the books and that was going to be an important part of their recovery, so there going to have to cancel those groups or postpone them to a different time, so both the hotel and the restaurant industry are going to take a big hit,” said Terry.

The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-Three and Order of Public Health Emergency Five and sixth amended Executive Order Sixty-Seven and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven can be found by clicking here.

“I think it’s important to really have some transparency in the data that’s driving the decisions, and I don’t know that we know exactly what’s going on there,” said Terry. “Why isolate restaurants and hotels more so than let’s say retail stores or other industries. That’s of concern to us.”

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