Kansas City bars, restaurants see rollback in COVID-19 restrictions as welcome relief

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Since the beginning for the COVID-19 pandemic, 137,000 people in the metro have tested positive for COVID-19, 36,000 of them in Kansas City, Mo.

Friday marked another turning point in the pandemic, as Mayor Quinton Lucas and the Kansas City Health Department cited a decrease in cases for the reason they are relaxing the city’s Emergency Order.

“I’ve known all along the Kansas City guidelines have kept people safer, has kept Kansas City safer and has kept our region safer,” said Mayor Lucas during a news conference Friday.

The economic impact of the public health emergency hit entertainment businesses especially hard, including restaurants and bars, which see the rollback as a welcome relief.

“Today is really kind of marking, I would think, to safely say the beginning of the end,” said David Lopez, general manager of Manny’s Mexican Restaurant.

“We can actually see it, we can feel it, it’s very exciting to have good news.”

The quiet, fairly empty dining room at Manny’s replaces what used to be packed with people, a high-energy party atmosphere before COVID-19. Limiting capacity, preventing large parties, private events and catering cut 70% of the restaurant’s profits.

“That is a huge huge number that we were fortunate enough to endure through the PPP loans, through different situations,” Lopez said.

One of the ways Manny’s kept its doors swinging is by changing its business model to focus on carry-outs, which the restaurant will continue as it slowly begins to creep back to some sense of normal.

Restaurants and bars may again stay open past midnight, host events, and there is no restriction on the number of people, as long as social distancing is possible. Wearing masks is still required when not eating or drinking.

“That is such a huge boost,” Lopez said. “Private dining, events and catering, it is a big, big deal.”

Another announcement made during Friday’s news conference is also making positive waves. The Big 12 basketball tournament will be played in Kansas City March 10-14 after being cancelled last year a few games into the tournament, and will allow limited fan attendance.

Men’s games will be played at T-Mobile Center, the women will play at Municipal Arena. Each venue will allow fans up to 20% capacity, the exact number will be determined by social-distancing guidelines.

What will not be happening is the usual economic boon and fanfare surrounding the tournament. Fan-Fest on Grand Boulevard and the pep rally in the KCP&L District won’t happen. The Kansas City Big 12 Run will be virtual this year. 

“It’s a little surreal that we’re still at this point of, okay, we are going to play the games, but are we going to have fans and what does this look like? It’s just bizarre, but we’re doing it and we’re doing it safely,” said President and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission, Kathy Nelson.

“And we’re doing it well and we are very proud of the fact that we’re going to be back in Kansas City.”

Ticket distribution and who will be able to buy them are still being determined.

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