LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Nearly three months after bars were hit with an 11:00 curfew, some are questioning if the early closure makes an impact. At the Governor’s press conference Tuesday, the curfew was a hot button issue as the state continues to break COVID records. Now, some bar owners are weighing in on the debate and sharing how the mandate has impacted business.
Norman Jones has been running “Discovery” for decades, a Little Rock club known for staying open all night. “We’ve targeted our audience for forty years to a late-night audience….[we stay open] until 5 am,” Jones said. But the space hasn’t been filled for weeks. In November, the Governor issued an 11 pm bar curfew, hoping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Jones says the mandate has gutted business: “this has just crippled us completely.”
The early closure was revisited at the Governor’s briefing. One attendant questioned if it really had an effect on the spread. “That’s not very well received out there,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson, “but we think that makes sense, and we make that judgment.”
According to the Arkansas Department of Health’s latest COVID report, only 0.1% of cases visited bars two weeks prior. Most of the spread happens a different way. “It is clear given the large number of cases that we’re seeing, and we’re continuing to see,” explained Dr. Jose Romero with ADH, “that this is a small gathering spread.”
The curfew is seen as a precaution, a way to stop Arkansans from letting their guard down. “Alcohol and COVID don’t mix,” cautioned Romero. But bar owners like Jones believe it does more harm than good, and say more trust should be put in businesses looking to start over after a devastating year. “Something is not working,” Jones said. “Everyone has suffered that’s been involved.”
The Governor did say that if upcoming data proves the mandate is less effective than hoped, he looks forward to lifting it. For now, all restaurants and bars that serve alcohol are ordered to close by 11.