San Diego, Allegheny Counties Halt On-Site Consumption; Arizona Closes Bars; Fauci Calls Indoor Congregation at Bars ‘Bad News’

Amid surges in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country, more states and counties are pulling back on on-site consumption at bars and breweries.

The reopening of bars for on-premise consumption has also come under fire in recent days from the highest levels of government. During testimony before the Senate on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called out bars, in particular, as “really not good.”

“Congregation at a bar inside is bad news,” he said. “We’ve really got to stop that right now when you have areas that are surging like we see right now.”

San Diego — home to more than 150 craft breweries — is requiring bars, breweries and wineries that are not licensed to serve food to close at midnight “until further notice,” the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

San Diego County will allow businesses licensed to sell food to continue to do so, as long as customers are seated at a table and alcoholic beverages can only be served with a meal.

The county said it will not consider reopenings of any businesses or activities earlier than August 1.

San Diego’s action follows California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordering an immediate end to on-site sales at bars in seven counties, as well as a recommendation that eight additional counties take similar action. The county recorded nearly 500 new COVID-19 cases on June 28, its highest total since the pandemic reached the U.S. The county noted that “recent outbreaks have been linked to bars, restaurants and private residences,” and there are a growing number of cases in young people between the ages of 20 and 29.

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the state’s second most populous county, ordered bars and restaurants to cease on-site consumption of alcoholic beverages on June 28, however the county said it would not begin enforcement until 5 p.m. EST today. The county’s order attributed “the sudden increase in cases” starting on June 22 “due, in large part, to crowded conditions at bars, restaurants and other businesses serving alcohol.” The county reported a record number of new cases — 96 — on June 28, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Allegheny County is allowing take-out alcohol sales to continue.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Monday closing bars, gyms, theaters, water parks and tubing rentals statewide, effective at 8 p.m. The closures will remain in effect until at least July 27.

From June 25 through June 28, Arizona recorded more than 3,000 new cases on each day, peaking at 3,857 new cases on June 28. New cases dropped to 625 on June 29. According to the Arizona Republic, 84% of current inpatient beds and 88% of ICU beds are in use.

Bars may still stay open for take-out and curbside service.

“We must be clear-eyed,” Ducey wrote. “The next few weeks will be hard. But these steps combined with stepped-up compliance with public health guidance can make a difference, and we’re grateful to Arizonans for their cooperation.”

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy indefinitely paused plans to allow restaurants to all indoor dining, due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases in other states, according to The Hill.

“The national situation, compounded by instances of knucklehead behavior here at home, are requiring us to hit pause on the restart of indoor dining for the foreseeable future,” he said.

New Jersey had been set to allow indoor dining to resume on Thursday.

The latest set of closures follow statewide bar closures in Texas and Florida enacted on Friday.

Not everyone is going along with the closures. The Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance is reportedly pushing back against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order to close bars and breweries for on-site consumption by indicating it will file a lawsuit against the state and is seeking a temporary restraining order in state and federal court, according to KVUE. The group also encouraged its members to defy the governor’s order.

“We support our members in the constitutional right to protest by keeping your businesses open,” the group wrote in an email to members.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission conducted a sweep of nearly 1,500 bars across the state from June 26-28, and found 59 establishments in non-compliance with the governor’s orders. Fifty-two of those establishments agreed to close, while seven remained open and had their liquor licenses suspended for 30 days.

One of the state’s craft breweries, Celis Brewery in Austin, temporarily ceased operations after two patrons informed the company that they tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting the brewery on June 20, according to a social media post.

“Our taproom will now be closed to all orders including to-go until the taproom is completely re-sanitized and deep cleaned,” the company wrote on its Facebook profile.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has surpassed 2.6 million cases and 126,360 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.

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