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Bar seating remains prohibited in Phase 3

Gov. Ralph Northam is taking a late step to keep bars in restaurants closed as the state enters Phase 3 of its reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

RICHMOND, Va. — The owner of 80/20 Burger Bar, Jamie Summs, said each step of reopening during the coronavirus pandemic has kept them on their toes. 

"The last 15 weeks have been pretty crazy," he said.

However, Summs considers his restaurant a community-based place. So, he said he thinks of the community’s health safety first, when it comes to getting back to business.

“When we found out that bar seating was going to be included for Phase 3, we just decided that just can’t be. We can’t stay safe and have a communal bar as well," said Summs.

He said that’s why he posted on Facebook, saying 80/20 will keep the bar closed during Phase 3. It got thousands of reactions, but Summs said he stands by keeping the outdoor patio open and the indoor bar closed.

“I know it’s a slippery slope. I’ve talked to other restaurant owners both here in Hampton Roads and some of my friends who have a bar in Austin, Texas and they say it’s nearly impossible to police it," said Summs.

Then on Tuesday, Governor Ralph Northam announced that bar seating will remain prohibited in restaurants, hours before Virginia entered Phase 3 of reopening.

Restaurants can continue to operate under Phase 2 restrictions, which allows limited table service in bar areas.

Northam said bar seating and congregating areas of restaurants will remain closed except for those passing through. Restaurants may use non-bar seating in the bar area, as long as there's a minimum of six feet between tables.

The governor said he's taking a cautious approach and is ready to implement tighter restrictions if needed.

“I am watching what is happening in other states—we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase Three and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas,” said Governor Northam. “In Virginia, our hospitalization rates have fallen, our percentage of positive tests continues to trend downward, and we are conducting more than 10,000 tests each day. We want these trends to continue, but if our public health metrics begin moving in the wrong direction, I will not hesitate to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

Summs said, “I applaud our Governor for making sure that we do move slowly and cautiously.”

People in Norfolk told us they agree with Northam's decision.

“It’s good to take things slow," said resident Annie Davis.

Andrew Wright said, “I think the responsible thing to do is keep capacity low and deny access to patrons who refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing.”

This is a similar decision that leaders in Texas and Florida have made as coronavirus cases have surged in those states.

Phase 3 of reopening began at midnight July 1, 2020.

You can read Northam's executive order detailing Phase 3 below:

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