Going to a bar is supposed to be fun. You catch up with friends, have a drink—maybe even dance or chat up a stranger. But heading to your favorite pub when it reopens may seem like the exact opposite of a good time given the novel coronavirus pandemic.
You may feel eager for a night out, but the thought of possibly contracting COVID-19 could make visiting a bar stressful.
Bars are slowly reopening in the United States, and you might be thinking:
When will bars near me reopen?
Right now, it’s not clear when nightlife will resume throughout the entire country. Cities with large numbers of COVID-19 cases—like New York—will take longer to reopen compared to areas where the disease was contained.
Ohio bars and restaurants welcomed guests back for indoor seating on May 21, reported WLWT 5 News. Texas bars are opening on May 22. You’ll have to check with your local government to find out the regulations near you.
And when the time comes, you’ll want to know whether it’s a good idea to go—and how to minimize the risk of getting sick. We turned to a few experts about what you should know when—or if—you decide to hit up happy hour during COVID-19.
What should you expect in a bar?
The White House revealed a reopening plan, but local governments have their own regulations for establishments. For example, certain states could require face coverings in bars while others won’t, according to J.C. Diaz, president, American Nightlife Association.
“It’s definitely a whole new realm for everyone trying to figure out what works best,” he says.
Diaz works with establishments across the country and says there are a few national trends:
Roslyn Stone, chief operating officer of Zero Hour Health, says no one really knows what changes will become the new normal.
“I think there is a steep learning curve,” she says. “I think everyone is looking to the states that are reopening [for guidance].”
Bars in Texas will reopen May 22 with occupancy reduced to 25 percent of their max, according to a release.
Here’s what a few Texas bars are implementing:
Parker Jazz Club in Austin: Seating is available by reservation only and guests will have pre-assigned tables that are socially distanced, the bar told Men’s Health. Employees are required to wear face masks and disposable gloves. Waitstaff will maintain a reasonable distance from guests. The entire club will be cleaned and sanitized between sets. Dancing is discouraged.
Friends and Allies Brewery: The bar will use disposable cups, accept contactless payments, and sell to-go beers, according to Eater.
Sellers Underground: Masks are required for guests when they’re not seated at their table and drinking, reported Eater.
What measures should you take before heading to a bar?
Before going to a bar—or gym, restaurant, etc.—you should assess the level of risk you’re willing to take, says Umair Shah, M.D., MPH and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Texas.
People under 60 who may not have compromised immune systems may feel comfortable in group settings. However, Shah says you should consider the health of people you socialize with, too.
“You have to be thinking about those around you—including those at work. You’re potentially bringing pathogens back into your home,” he says.
It’s a good idea to monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms. Stay home if you feel sick or have a temperature that exceeds 100.4°F.
What measures should you take at the bar?
Observe how well the bar staff and other patrons are maintaining hygiene and social distancing, Dr. Shah recommends. Are there lines outside the establishment? Are the tables crowded and placed closely next to each other? Can you spot hand-sanitizing stations?
Dr. Shah encourages wearing a face covering when not drinking—but be sure to clean your hands after touching your mask. It’s a good idea to bring your own sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to quickly swipe high-touch surfaces, like the table.
And you’ll want to avoid getting too close to people outside your group to minimize the chances of getting sick.
What measures should your take after leaving a bar to minimize COVID-19 risk?
Good personal hygiene is the best way to avoid getting sick: Wash your hands and keep them away from your face.
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