Knoxville bar owner shares his experience navigating frequent changes during pandemic

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Bar owners throughout Knox County are preparing to close their businesses, again, in a couple of days.

The Knox County Board of Health on Wednesday voted to order bars closed by 12:01 a.m. Aug. 3. The order is set to expire Aug. 20, if not renewed prior.

Their vote followed a series of recommendations by Dr. Deborah Birx, of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, to lower the amount of new COVID-19 cases in Tennessee, including closing bars.

Will Bolduc, owner of Central Depot Taproom and Cocktail Bar, expected the announcement and had already began preparing to restart their to-go service.

Bars and other businesses deemed nonessential first closed on March 24. They were allowed to reopen to in-person service May 26 when the county entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan.

While Bolduc will certainly see a drop in revenue, he also sees a need for closing.

“There’s the business owner of me that’s trying to keep the business open and make some money, and there’s the part of me that cares about us recovering from this pandemic as quickly as possible,” he said. “I think I would have voted to close as well. I don’t think there’s any way around that.”

Bolduc also expressed frustration with resistance from some in the public to follow the five core actions outlined by the Knox County Health Department, which he thinks could have helped prevent the soaring new cases.

“From day one, we’ve had to talk to grown adults about sitting down and putting their mask on,” he said. “That’s an interesting position to be in, as a business owner or a hospitality worker. I would argue that’s not, exactly, our job either.

“It’s been tricky. Enforcement needs to be coming from a little higher up than your neighborhood bartender.”

Bolduc described navigating the frequent changes as “borderline impossible.” He hopes county leaders will stick to their decision, and avoid rushing into reopening and ultimately prevent them from having to close again.

“Without continued support, we wouldn’t be here,” Bolduc added.

He asked the public to continue following small businesses on social media, to stay updated on their changes on operations, and to continue placing to-go orders and buying gift cards.

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