1 million expected at Lake of the Ozarks for 4th of July as pandemic continues

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LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. — Bar owners at the the lake estimated there were 800,000 people at the lake during Memorial Day. This weekend they are planning for a million visitors

Jeremy Gorham co-owns Shady Gators, a Cajun-style bar and grill near the Village of the Four Seasons. He said they plan to follow the same guidelines this weekend as Memorial Day.

“We are treating it like a normal holiday weekend,” Gorham said. “We really do feel like this is going to be the biggest holiday weekend the lake has ever seen.”

The Lake of the Ozarks is preparing for one of their largest celebrations of America’s birthday, since Missouri ended restrictions and some surrounding states, like Illinois, have not.

“We are getting people that are coming from everywhere right now, and I never thought we would see that,” Gorham said.

With the addition of hand sanitizers, plastic silverware, paper menus and other cautionary measures, Gorham said his bar and restaurant is ready.

“We have thermometers to take people’s temperatures on our big events before they come in here,” he said. “We have bathroom attendants. We are constantly power washing the place down every day, every inch of it.”

He also said if any employee isn’t feeling well, they get sent home until they get a coronavirus test and show that it’s negative.

Just a few miles away from Shady Gators, a guest at Backwater Jack’s Bar and Grill took a viral video of a bar packed with partiers celebrating Memorial Day near the height of the pandemic. One person tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Camden County Health Department – that person was at Shady Gators that Saturday and Sunday.

“Two weeks later, we were counting down the days because they say you have to wait 14 days to see if you have it or not,” Gorham said.

Gorham said he was nervous for Memorial Day weekend. He said these past few months have been stressful on the business.

“It’s just been the most difficult summer I’ve ever endured,” he said. “We are very grateful and appreciate for everyone coming to the Lake of the Ozarks this summer. It doesn’t go unnoticed.”

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