Knox County Health Board member proposes curfew compromise for bar closing order


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Dr. Patrick O’Brien, Chief Medical Review Officer for the Knox County Board of Health, has proposed an amendment to the board’s order closing bars that would allow them to reopen with a curfew.

O’Brien’s proposal would allow bars to open for on-premise consumption with a 10 p.m. curfew. The proposed amendment will be considered at the Knox County Board of Health meeting on Wednesday.

Zack Roskop, president of Knoxville Area Brewers Association (KABA) and owner of Knox Brew Tours, said when he was closely watching the board meeting when the health board voted to close bars.

He immediately reached out to KABA members about how they felt, and then reached out to Dr. O’Brien.

“We’re community centers, we’re family-friendly, we give back to the community. It’s not about just a bar, it’s about creating a place for the community to be a part of, and I hope at least that we can start that conversation with the health board,” Rosktop said.

Roskop said he was trying to figure out what breweries could do on top of what they were already doing, so they wouldn’t be lumped into the bar closure order.

“For us, when we watched that meeting, it felt like a big part of the concern or big angle was the return of UT students, and another issue seemed to be gatherings of groups larger than 25,” Roskop said.

He said that KABA realized most bars in Knoxville are similar to breweries, and a curfew would easily fit into what the board was looking to do.

“If I look back in my time in college, I think having a 10 p.m. curfew would accomplish the mission,” Roskop said.

The regulation closing all Knox County bars began at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The order is set to run through Thursday, Aug. 20, but health officials previously said it may be extended, if necessary.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, the only board of health member to vote against the closure of bars, expressed support for the proposal in a statement.

“I’m happy to see this suggestion from Dr. O’Brien. We have received a lot of feedback from the community since last week’s meeting that the Bar Order unfairly places the burden of mitigating COVID on the backs of a specific group of business owners. That’s was why I voted against it in the first place. I think making adjustments that would still allow these businesses to operate is a good compromise because it keeps both our economy and our people healthy. A lot of people have tried to make this political and forced people to take a side, but the reality is we have to look at all angles and this proposal is something that does that.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs

Local bar owners said they were in favor of the proposed amendment as well.

“To be able to come out with a proposed amendment to the order that would be a, I won’t call it a happy medium, but it’s at least an opportunity for us to continue to stay open so I thank (the board of health) for that and I’m in full support of that curfew,” Nathan Robinette, president of The Casual Pint, said.

Robinette said that even if the board of health votes against the proposed amendment for a curfew, The Casual Pint will remain open.

Joel McLead, co-owner of Pour Taproom, said he believes the curfew proposal is better than having to fully close.

“Is it majority right now? I have no idea. I definitely don’t want to get my hopes up, but as of Tuesday’s gut feeling, I’m hopeful it is a step in the right direction,” McLead said.

However, similar to his worried before the board of health voted to close bars, he hopes bars aren’t singled out again even with the curfew.

“I would hope that they wouldn’t say after bars close at 10 p.m., you know, a restaurant can stay open until 3 a.m. if they want…I hope that it’s at least an all-encompassing mandate,” McLead said.

The Knox County Board of Health will convene via the Zoom video conference service for its weekly meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The board will have a 30-minute of public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. To register for the public forum, Knox County residents must call the Mayor’s office at 865-215-2005 to speak to Marsha between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Public comment will be limited to 10 participants, with others on standby if all participants don’t use their allotted 3 minutes.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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