Bar seating reopened statewide, governor declares
Change made without announcement Wednesday
For the first time in more than a year, Virginians are now allowed to sit at bars for service as long as they stay at least six feet apart.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam amended Executive Order 72 on Wednesday without an announcement, making the following policy change for restaurants, breweries, distilleries, wineries and tasting rooms: “Congregating areas of restaurants must be closed to patrons except for through-traffic. Patrons may be seated at the bar for service, provided a minimum of six feet is provided between parties.”
Northam has loosened some restrictions on gatherings in recent weeks — including allowing higher attendance at sporting events and amusement parks, as well as boosting the number of people allowed at private gatherings, up to 100 people at outdoor events, as of April 1.
Although the spread of the coronavirus continues, with 650,981 total cases and 10,653 deaths statewide, the positivity rate in Virginia has remained relatively steady for several weeks and is now at 5.9%, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Meanwhile, 3.5 million Virginians — 41% of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, VDH reported Thursday. Northam said in recent weeks that he will continue lifting restrictions as long as the coronavirus’ spread stays under control, with further loosening of restrictions expected by early May.
Bars have been a major area of concern for Northam and public health officials, who have maintained that community spread of the virus is a high risk in bars as people gather in close quarters and lose inhibitions about keeping their distance due to alcohol use.
The Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association estimated earlier this month that about one in five restaurants across the state have closed permanently during the pandemic, and many others are struggling financially due to continued restrictions.