KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Starting on Thursday, Kansas City as well as Jackson County will allow bars and restaurants to stay open until midnight.
This loosening of COVID-19 rules comes the same weekend as the first NFL playoff game for the Kansas City Chiefs.
A spokesperson for Mayor Quinton Lucas said those games, which include an early game played by the Chiefs, had no impact on the decision making to allow establishments to stay open later.
Still, the games will be a big draw for sports bars that still need to enforce social distancing, mask wearing and a 50% capacity limit.
“The capacity normally is 499 people,” Bill Fickle said of his pool and dart sports bar Side Pockets in Blue Springs.
Fickle said that business was down between 35-40% in December and attributes it to restricted hours.
In November, Jackson County, Kansas City and surrounding jurisdictions told bars and restaurants that they would need to close at 10 p.m. Their stated goal was to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Fickle said the restriction succeeded in keeping people out of his sports bar, notably during nights that the Kansas City Chiefs played night games.
“And a lot of people, if you say, ‘Hey, there’s a 7:25 game but you’re closing a 10’, you know, people are like, ‘We’re not sure we want to be there for that,'” Fickle said.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Lucas said that based on information from public health officials, he feels it is time for longer bar hours.
“We’ve seen case rates for those who are ages 18-29 drop at almost 50%. Before that point we had a crisis among those who are younger adults. We had a crisis because we saw crowds that were gathering at bars and at restaurants. Those interventions have worked,” Lucas said.
Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. put out this less-convinced statement: “Let me be clear, our situation has not improved over the past two months. COVID-19 cases are up, our 14-day percent positive remains high as well as hospital capacity.”
“However, to remain consistent with neighboring jurisdictions, lessen confusion among residents and create fairness for eastern Jackson County businesses, we have decided to move forward in this manner.”
Dr. Rex Archer, KCMO Director of Health, also shared his own concerns during Lucas’s news conference.
“But let me just give you a little bit of an example. If you’ve got a second story bedroom window, just because it’s legal for you to jump out of that window, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. And I’m saying that because it’s not a good idea to be in these indoor environments when people stop wearing masks,” Archer said.
At Side Pockets, Fickle said they’re strictly enforcing all COVID-19 rules and they are prepared and excited for the weekend.
“We do the majority of our profits of our business between 9 p.m. and midnight,” Fickle said.
Lucas said that he plans on reviewing the revised plan in one month when possibly, he hinted, Kansas City may open bars and restaurants back to full hours.