BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: What is a “bar” and what is not; who can open now, and who must wait?

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The Frozen Weenie Chronicles of 2014.

Last week my friend Jeff at Riverside Cigars/Match Cigar Bar in Jeffersonville posted a conundrum at this Facebook page.

So, Governor Holcolm says:

Restaurants and bars that serve food may open (on May 11) at 50% capacity with operational limitations. Bar seating will be closed with no live entertainment. Servers and kitchen staff must wear face coverings

But ATC (Alcohol & Tobacco Commission) says:

A business that merely meets the minimum food requirements outlined in 905 IAC 1-20-1 of having hot soups, hot sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks, and milk available does not qualify to open for on-premises sales during stage 2.

So, I have a question. Since when does “meeting requirements” mean one “does not qualify”? Their words, not mine!

The answer: Whenever the ATC says it does — or doesn’t.

However, in fairness to the ATC, if making sense of the laws handed by legislators to the agency is confusing during non-pandemic times, it can only be more impenetrable when some rules have been suspended, others have not, and there exists no real road map for wandering through the maze.

According to the governor’s Back on Track economic reopening plan, bars without full food service cannot reopen until Stage 4, which lands on June 14th.

The ATC’s official clarification can be found here.

May 8, 2020: Frequently Asked Questions on EO 20-26, Roadmap to Reopen Indiana

  1. What is a “bar area”? The bar area for the purposes of Executive order 20-26 is the counter over which drinks are served. During Stage 2, this area should be for employees only. Chairs should be removed or marked as unavailable. Ordering, serving, and consuming food and drinks for on-premises consumption is prohibited in this area. To the extent that this area is being used for ordering and serving of carryout food orders, a business may continue to do this while following the CDC guidelines.
  2. What is a bar or tavern that must remain closed under Paragraph 10. e. during Stage 2? A bar or tavern is a premises that prohibits the entry of anyone under the age of twenty-one and is not in the business of providing in-person full dining service. A business that merely meets the minimum food requirements outlined in 905 IAC 1-20-1 of having hot soups, hot sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks, and milk available does not qualify to open for on-premises sales during stage 2.
  3. Can a retail restaurant permittee that is limited to customers twenty-one and over allow on-premises dining during Stage 2 at 50% capacity and following other social distancing and sanitation measures? Yes. The bar area must remain closed and the business must provide in-person full dinging service. A business that merely meets the minimum food requirements outlined in 905 IAC 1-20-1 of having hot soups, hot sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks, and milk available does not qualify to open for on-premises sales during stage 2.

It’s clear enough to me. Bars not normally engaged in food service on-premise cannot reopen until June 14, and the ATC isn’t allowing the frozen weenie dorm fridge or even a food truck to alleviate this interpretation.

My personal view is that all these reopenings are happening too soon, but no one asked me. However, if it’s to be now, then it needs to be consistent. My former brewers’ guild board mate Shane Pearson (Daredevil Brewing) said it best, encapsulating his viewpoint as well as mine:

“Some of this deciding what is in which stage seems random or just not trusting people to do the right thing. If you have social distancing then most retail businesses should be able to open at the same pace. Lots of room for people to stay under the radar. I’ve got no issue if they maintain social distancing & other requirements.”

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