‘Don’t single out bars. That’s not right’: Knoxville bar owner protests Board of Health’s decisions

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– Ahead of the Knox County Board of Health special meeting, bar owners and restaurant managers were nervous about the resolutions the board was voting on.

Originally, the board was voting to limit restaurant/bar capacity to 25% and a curfew at 9 p.m.

Richard Cameron, the owner of Club X, Y, Z, said the 11 p.m. curfew was difficult enough for his bar, since they don’t open until 7 p.m.

He said a 9 p.m. curfew would hurt his employees and bar guests tremendously.

“It’s being able to pay our employees, but it’s also to be able to stay open so we can continue to provide our community with the place they can come to where they feel comfortable to be who they are,” Cameron said.

Cameron said the curfew, at 11 p.m. or earlier, will ruin businesses and livelihoods.

He feels the Board of Health wasn’t making decisions based on science and data, and those decisions were singling bars out.

“You can look at it the one way, they’re scaring people into thinking that by going to bars, they’re going to get COVID. You know? That’s not, that’s not right, you know, cause they don’t have the science and data to back it up,” Cameron said.

Cameron asked if the BOH was truly looking at data, why wouldn’t they include other businesses or places of gathering, such as churches or grocery stores?

“You can get COVID anywhere. Alright? Don’t single out bars. That’s not right; it’s not fair,” Cameron said. “If you’re standing around and you’re not actively engaging in an alcoholic beverage, or, pretty much that’s it, or eating, then you’re wearing a mask. And we don’t mind asking them to do that.”

On the other hand, Stephanie Cunningham, a manager with Aubrey’s Corporation, said her restaurants will gladly take the advice from the BOH and follow their regulations.

Cunningham did say a cut in capacity would hurt the company, and create ripple effects people don’t usually think about.

“There’s a ripple effect that goes with this. You know, U.S. Foods, they supply most of my food, that means we’re one of their biggest accounts. We’re going to be cutting back from them. Also, Eagle and Cherokee do our beers and all of the Knox County liquor distributors,” Cunningham said.

She said guests would also notice a change, but only in that they would most likely have to wait longer to sit at a table.

Unfortunately, with the other restrictions, a longer wait time also means guests would be waiting in their cars or outside. However, Cunningham said if the BOH says certain regulations are in place for a reason, they will comply.

“If Knox County feels that’s the best for Knox County, then that’s what we’re going to do, because I’ve gots thousands of employees, and I’ve got thousands of people who come through our doors every day and it’s up to us to make sure that they are safe,” Cunningham said.

The BOH passed an amended resolution for restaurants and bars on Monday night.

Dining capacity stays at 50% instead, and the curfew will be at 10 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. Additional language was added to limit tables to eight people if not from the same household.

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