Food by VICE

Here's What's Happening to Bars and Restaurants That Refuse to Close Over Coronavirus

From Philadelphia to Nashville to Florida, some restaurants, bars, and casinos just aren't interested in heeding the government's warnings.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Mar 18 2020, 10:36pm

Photo: Getty Images

On almost any other Sunday, the bars on Lower Broadway in Nashville would've been packed with out-of-towners, wide-eyed new residents, and at least one woman named Kaycie who just vomited on her "RIDE THE BRIDE" bachelorette party sash. This Sunday some of those same bars, including Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Rippy's Honky Tonk, and Kid Rock's Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock N' Roll Steakhouse were still open—but it wasn't biz as usual.

Nashville mayor John Cooper issued a statement at 5 p.m. asking all bars on Lower Broadway to close, and ordering restaurants to limit their seating to 50 percent of capacity, with a 100-person maximum, regardless. But Steve Smith, who owns Tootsies, Rippy's, and Kid Rock's, among others, said that he absolutely wasn't closing down unless the order came from the governor.

"We appreciate the efforts of Mayor Cooper to combat the COVID-19 virus, but unless there’s a statewide mandate that directs all bars and restaurants to be closed, the request made by Mayor Cooper is unconstitutional as he Is targeting a select group of businesses,” Smith said in his own statement. (Less than a day later, Smith changed his mind and closed the properties "to help protect public health.")

Although Smith cosplayed as a tough guy (or just a stupid one) for several hours, there are other bar and restaurant owners who have still promised to remain open, regardless of what their cities or states might order.

A reporter from Philadelphia magazine personally confirmed that at least three bars in the city were still open earlier this week––and one flat-out vowed to keep it that way "until they put chains on the gates." (A bartender did point out that his joint was using plastic cups instead of glasses "for hygiene.")

The Philly mag reporter didn't identify any of the bars he visited, possibly because they could all end up like the Queen City Lounge. On Monday night, the Cincinnati bar had 40 people inside, and they were helping themselves to plates from a full buffet, despite the governor of Ohio's order that all dine-in facilities had to be closed because… you know.

On Tuesday afternoon, police officers boarded the restaurant up, the assistant chief of police signed off on a letter which could lead to the revocation of the bar's food service and liquor licenses, and the cops are pissed that they even had to be there.

"Not only are you putting the general public at risk, you’re putting our officers at risk that had to go in and deal with the individuals that were in violation,” Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate told FOX 19. “So, as a result, we are going to set the example today.”

And all six casinos run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood—the most successful casino in the United States—have vowed to stay open, despite the obvious risks. The casinos have cancelled or postponed concerts and comedians who had been scheduled to perform, but the gambling facilities remain open. The Tampa Bay Times reports that some concessions to coronavirus have been made, like turning off some slot machines to help gamblers practice social distancing, increasing its sanitation efforts, and taking the self-service utensils away from the buffets. (And this is an even more complicated situation, because the Seminole casinos are on sovereign tribal land.)

Look, if your restaurant or bar has to close, then we know that you'll have to make some difficult decisions regarding your servers, bartenders, and kitchen staff. We also know that, depending on how long these temporary closures are in place, there's a chance that you won't be able to re-open. But we're also trying to just keep each other healthy and alive, and we—your customers—promise that we'll be back as soon as it's safe to do so.

Besides, if you stay open, then you're on the wrong side of almost everyone, including the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum which have both reluctantly closed out of concern for the spread of coronavirus. Those institutions don't even believe in science, and they're still closed.

Be better than the Creation Museum. You are better than the Creation Museum.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Tagged:
Restaurants
Coronavirus
COVID-19