Governor Northam amends executive order to allow bar seating

Updated: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:30 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has updated one of his executive orders to now include bar seating as an option when going out. This is the first time Virginians will be able to sit at a bar since March of 2020.

The governor’s office did not send out a public notice about this change, but there was a small ‘updated’ banner on the governor’s executive order webpage noting it had been changed on Wednesday.

In bold on the amended order, the document now reads that “congregating in areas of restaurants must be closed to patrons except for through-traffic,” instead of its previous mandate to close both bar areas and other congregating areas.

Now, “patrons may be seated at the bar for service, provided a minimum of six feet is provided between parties.”

“My company has about 600 feet of bar space, and we’re just thrilled to be able to use it again,” said Matt Simmons, owner of Capital Ale House on East Main Street.

It’s been over a year since anyone was allowed to sit in the bar stools at Capital Ale House, and Simmons says bar service made up about 25% of profits in the pre-Covid world.

Like many other establishments, the bar is the main centerpiece, which lends itself to an “atmosphere that’s very conducive to people socializing.”

However, there are still restrictions in place for dining establishments, including:

  • No alcohol sales or consumption between midnight and 5 a.m.
  • All private bookings limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors
  • All parties maintain 6 feet physical distance between each other
  • Employees and patrons must wear masks
Staff set up bar seating after Governor Northam eases restrictions.
Staff set up bar seating after Governor Northam eases restrictions.(wwbt/nbc12)

“We can have a group of six or eight people there, as long as they’re six feet away from the next group, or six feet away from the next table,” Simmons explained on Thursday. That morning, the staff had set up bar stools in three sets along the bar. Just the day before, the bar was bare and the chairs were still in storage.

Simmons has run Capital since 2002 and never would have predicted what happened to his business in the last year. He’s just relieved to see some things starting to return to normal.

“With the weather and the outdoor dining, we’ll be busy; as busy as we can be with the seating restrictions. But I think it’s just going to add a little bit more sales to our ledgers, and it’s just nice to see people socializing at the bar again,” he added.

Gov. Northam said that more restrictions will be lifted as more Virginians get COVID vaccinations.

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