NEWPORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Gov. Andy Beshear announced the statewide closure of all bars in Kentucky for two weeks Monday as part of a new series of actions intended to slow the commonwealth’s sudden escalation in COVID-19 cases.
Kentucky’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have grown 33 percent since July 15. Its positivity rate is at 5.6 percent after reaching a low-mark of 3 percent in the middle of June. Its reproduction rate is among the highest in the country now at 1.19, according to open-source website rt.live, which draws data from the COVID tracking project.
By all accounts, including the governor’s, the pandemic is worsening in Kentucky.
“Whether or not our economy can continue to stay open and flourish depends on our ability to control the virus. The number of people who die is based on our ability to control the virus. Getting our kids back in school is based on our ability to control this virus,” Beshear said Monday. “So now it’s time to do the things that we’ve got to do, given the stage we’re in, to control this virus.”
Among those measures are White House recommendations triggered by certain data, including case numbers and positivity rate. Hence the bar shut down order.
Still, White House recommendation though it may be, that’s cold comfort to the host of small businesses around the state fated to suffer because of it, including Jerry’s Jug House in Newport’s East Row district.
Owner Mark Ramler says it’s the actions of a few that have led to the order.
“It’s a little bit infuriating that we’re doing everything right, we are taking extra steps, we’re being extra cautious and playing by the rules, and I passed a bar this weekend that had live music, and it was packed inside, and not a single mask,” Ramler told FOX19 NOW Monday. “It’s like, ‘Come on guys, do your part so we can stay safe and stay open.‘”
Ramler’s observation isn’t unique.
In July, a Florence bar owner published a profanity-laced live video on Facebook that depicted him and his customers proudly disobeying Beshear’s mask ordinance while calling out the governor himself.
“We’re Americans. We’re going to do what we want,” Patrick Townsend, owner of Town’s End Bar, said at the beginning of the video.
Townsend later apologized for the profanity but remained recalcitrant about the statewide pandemic orders.
As for Ramler’s bar, Jerry’s Jug House opened in September and has been dealing with COVID-19 closures and restrictions for nearly half its first 10 months in business.
“Being a new bar is extremely difficult because we don’t have a war chest saved up,” he explained. “Then, six months in, we can’t serve anybody.”
Kentucky bars were permitted to reopen June 29 at 33 percent capacity, but Ramler kept the Newport bar closed a bit longer. Finally Jerry’s Jug House reopened in the third week of July with outside seating only.
Now they’re closing down again.
“It’s going to be devastating,” Ramler said.