As members of the business community, we welcomed the news of businesses reopening. Now, with cases of COVID-19 linked directly back to open establishments in our community — including bars, restaurants, a strip club, large hotel, and a tourism and travel company — we seek to preserve the progress we’ve made with additional voluntary protections for bars and restaurants to reduce the risk to employees and the public.
Based on Anchorage Economic Development Corporation’s (AEDC) Business Impact Survey, tourism and hospitality are two of the industries most heavily impacted by COVID-related job losses. A second industry-wide shutdown, for even a short period, will certainly result in the permanent closure of some of the establishments that you own, patronize, know and love.
With the Municipality’s indicator for public health capacity in the “red” zone, it is vital to the future of our economy that business owners, employees and their customers willingly implement and adhere to additional preventative safety measures.
We know that most bars and restaurants are already following and promoting best practices by maintaining physical distancing, wearing face coverings, using hand sanitizer or frequently washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, and directing staff to stay home if they feel even mild symptoms. We are grateful for those efforts, but we can do more.
With a number of COVID-19-positive individuals visiting local businesses during their infectious period in the last week alone, in situations where face coverings were not worn and physical distancing not always adhered to, it’s more important now than ever that we rededicate ourselves to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
We cannot be complacent. We need every business fully engaged in this effort. For the safety of our community’s employees, business owners, and customers, we have developed seven recommendations for bars and restaurants to reduce the risk of transmission.
While none of these are ideal for local business — and we know that customers, too, want to return to business as usual — we don’t want our community to lose any of the businesses that bring life to our city. For that reason, we suggest that bars and restaurants voluntarily adopt the following:
• No admittance without face coverings.
• Reduce or eliminate dancing/bands. Activities that encourage people to congregate in close proximity to each other all lead to a higher risk of transmission.
• Turn down the music. Loud music, live or otherwise, encourages patrons to stand closer together for conversations, increasing the risk of transmission.
• Institute earlier closing hours. All bars and restaurants will evaluate closing earlier to avoid higher risk hours when patrons are likely less focused on physical distancing.
• Increase the physical distancing of patrons through space layout. Maintain and, where possible, increase the physical separation between patrons at the bar and/or tables. Ensure that public spaces like hallways or paths provide the same physical separation. Consider limiting the number of bathroom occupants at any one time.
• Signage/advertising. Set clear expectations for patrons before they visit/enter an establishment.
• Increase outdoor seating and serving. The Alcohol Marijuana Control Office (AMCO) created the AB-15 permit that allows bars and restaurants to temporarily expand their licensed areas to outside and increase physical distancing.
Keeping our favorite spots open through this stage of the pandemic will require all of us to prioritize the health and safety of employees and the public. Protecting the frontline workers who staff these gathering spaces will demand care and caution from both customers and business owners alike.
We’re all in this together. The health and safety of our residents, as well as our economy, depend on each business stepping up their game in terms of precautionary protocols. Every additional step we take to protect neighbors, employees and customers makes a difference for our community.
Bill Popp is president and CEO of Anchorage Economic Development Corp. Julie Saupe is president and CEO of Visit Anchorage. Bruce Bustamante is the president and CEO of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Sarah Oates is president and CEO of Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant, and Retailers Association (CHARR). Silvia Villamides is executive director of Alaska Hospitality Retailers. Amanda Moser is executive director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
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