KC bars, restaurants fear possible new restrictions after mayor’s call with White House task force

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Some Kansas City business owners have heightened concerns over possible new restrictions related to the growing number of coronavirus cases in the metro.

On Monday, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas shared a call with Dr. Deborah Birx, who’s on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The mayor said Birx identified our region as potential hot spot for rising infections.

Her suggestions to curb the spread of the virus would mostly impact bars and restaurants.

Sarah Romero, a bartender at The Phoenix, worries she could soon be out of a job – yet again.

“It’s unsettling for me, just for the fact this is my only job,” Romero said.

One of three recommendations the mayor listed in a tweet about the call was the possibility of closing bars or cutting them off at 10 p.m.

“I understand they’re trying to cut down on traffic, maybe the later traffic that comes in, but I think people find ways around things,” Romero said.

Another suggestion included reducing indoor dining to 25% capacity, a move La Bodega owner James Taylor said would hurt businesses already operating on thin margins.

“You’re going to devast a lot of people unnecessarily that are not causing the spread,” Taylor said.

Taylor agrees the city has to do what it takes to keep people safe from getting sick, but he said most restaurants have been following the city’s safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus, including requiring masks, distancing tables, even offering temperature checks.

“Right now, I don’t think it’s fair to lump in the restaurants,” he said. “We have been following the rules, and there have been no notable breakouts in any restaurant right now.”

Bill Teel with the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association agreed.

“[The cases] all seem to be family gatherings, graduation parties, large groups of young people getting together without masks, so it doesn’t appear to us restaurants are the problem,” Teel said. “We think they should look at the problem areas and focus on that rather than restaurants that are doing a good job during this pandemic.”

Teel warned some restaurants may be forced to shut down entirely if they have to reduce capacity.

“There will be some that will close their dining rooms because they can’t operate at 25% capacity, so they’ll just go back to curbside delivery,” he said. “Some of them will close down temporarily and some, I feel, will shut down permanently.”

On Wednesday, a spokesperson with the Mayor’s Office said they are “carefully monitoring COVID numbers and are considering Dr. Birx’ recommendations to keep the infection rate down.”

No word on what, if any, action will be taken.

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