Gov. Northam quietly amends executive order to allow seating at the bar


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has amended a previous executive order to now allow seating at bars.

The order, which sets statewide restrictions for businesses, schools and other events in an effort to control coronavirus cases, was amended on Wednesday.

The governor’s office did not send out public notice about the amended order, but a small “updated” banner was displayed on the governor’s executive order webpage noting it had been changed on Wednesday.

In bold on the amended order, the document now reads that “congregating in areas of restaurants must be closed to patrons except for through-traffic,” instead of its previous mandate to close both bar areas and other congregating areas.

Now, “patrons may be seated at the bar for service, provided a minimum of six feet is provided between parties.”

Still, restrictions are still in place for dining establishments, including:

  • No alcohol sales or consumption between midnight and 5 a.m.
  • All private bookings limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors
  • All parties maintain 6 feet physical distance between each other
  • Employees and patrons must wear masks

This is the first time bar seating will be open in Virginia since March 2020. Last spring, restaurants were required to close to all business except take-out and delivery. When Phase 1 reopening began in May, restaurants were allowed outdoor seating at 50% capacity as well as takeout and delivery. Phase 2 of the reopening plan allowed some indoor seating with restrictions, but still no bar seating.

Earlier this week, Northam said there were changes for theater productions and cross country events.

Wednesday’s amended order also changes restrictions for outdoor races. Those events, such as cross country races or marathons where physical distancing of runners can be maintained, may include no more than 100 runners per grouping, according to the order.

Theater productions can now have 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors, or 30% capacity, whichever is lower.

School theater and musical performances can also now be held among students, teachers, administrators, and other school staff. Those events must follow the state’s COVID-19 restrictions for performances, which include social distancing, masks, cleaning protocols and more.

While cases have been decreasing for six days, the order says this is considered to be a “fluctuating trend,” meaning most of the restrictions issued under Executive Order 72 “must largely remain in place a little longer.”

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