JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Downtown areas like Johnson City could soon become lively again on the weekends thanks to Governor Bill Lee’s newest executive order allowing bars and nightclubs to re-open. While business owners say they are excited to open back up- some changes will have to be made with how they serve their customers.
“Now is the time to either open or close the doors for good,” said JRH Brewing owner and brewer John Henritze.
The order calls for seating at tables and following the same guidelines as restaurants. Henritze has been closed since mid- March and opened back up Friday night. He is spacing tables out, blocking off fabric furniture and serving beer in plastic cups.
“We have been doing to-go orders and curbside pickup since we closed but it’s nothing like getting a pint and sitting down at a table in the brewery,” Henritze said.
The new order is a struggle for those with smaller spaces- like Johnson City Brewing Company.
“We’ve only got about 900 square feet… We’re going to take out [the right] bar and take out [the left] bar… and fit a couple of tables in here,” said Co-founder and head brewer, Eric Latham.
Executive order 38 also extends to-go alcohol. Johnson City Brewing Company has been delivering and Latham hopes it is here to stay.
“It worked out wonderfully. We were able to do it responsibly, check people’s IDs. In fact, we’re able to create a job or two that way and possibly additional tax revenue so all in all we’re hoping to be able to make that a permanent service,” Latham said.
While some are planning to re-open their taprooms and bars as soon as possible- Little Animals Brewery on Main Street is planning to continue curbside only service for a few more weeks.
“I think we will see a spike in cases. I really hope and pray that we don’t but that’s one of the reasons why we are approaching this so cautiously,” said Co-owner Chris Cates.
Wonderland Lounge and Grill will be waiting until the first of June to open back up.
“We want to sanitize our bar first and I want to make sure that my employees and my managers- they know how to implement all those federal and state guidelines,” said owner Meenu Singh.
Singh says she plans to start with limited customers and by staggering her staff, however, she does plan to have a deejay.
“He didn’t say anything about not to do deejays or anything. What we are planning is to move some of our couches to the back so we have more space here that way people can have some distance between them,” Singh said.
Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.