New order from Sedgwick County health officer calls for 1 a.m. closing for bars, nightclubs

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 5:56 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As part of a new public health order anticipated to start Thursday, Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns is proposing an extra hour for bars and nightclubs to stay open. The added hour would push the current close time from midnight to 1 a.m., now one hour short of the pre-COVID-19 closing time. The Sedgwick County Commission will consider the latest order at its meeting Wednesday. The county commission can either approve or amend the order. Dr. Minns said the mask requirement, social-distancing guideline and gathering limit will remain the same.

Wichita bar and nightclub owners who spoke with Eyewitness News Tuesday said they’re thankful for the extra hour because it better allows them to serve customers who get off of work late. They said the additional time to stay open will help them get back on track, not losing money like they were over the previous several months since the pandemic started.

“I’m glad for that hour. I don’t understand the difference between 1 (a.m.) and 2, but we just have to be respectful of the order that’s been put into place,” said Walt’s East Co-owner Heather Westfall.

While acknowledging that 1 a.m. is better than 11 p.m. or midnight, some bar and nightclub owners wonder why the proposed order won’t allow for the extra 30 minutes to an hour they’d usually stay open before the pandemic.

“It doesn’t provide any more safety measures. It doesn’t prove any more precautions. It just drains our accounts, even farther than they have already been drained,” Blu Nightclub owner Darren Greiving said.

County leaders say the curfew is meant to keep people safe. Many owners hope Sedgwick County commissioners continue to understand how had their industry has been hit.

“You know, it’s kind of a puzzle, and some nights you get the whole puzzle together and sometimes you’ve got three pieces missing,” said Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar Owner Morrie Sheets.

Westfall said owners will “take any help (they) can get at this point to get back into making a profit.”

“There’s really no reason to specifically point to our industry when there’s zero data showing that we’re an issue in the first place,” Greiving said. Especially this late in the game where everybody else is open."

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