TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Shawnee County Commissioners on Thursday voted to extend bar hours in the area.
In a 2-1 vote, bars will now be allowed to open until 12 a.m. seven days of the week. The ruling will go into effect immediately.
“I’m barely getting by on minimum wage right now with what I make. I’ve picked up a second job and that’s helping, but it’s…not enough to live on,” said Morgan Lynn, bartender for Dutch Goose Sports Bar & Grill.
Lynn has worked at the bar for 10 years, supporting her three children with that income.
However, that became more difficult as bars were forced to reduce their hours, or shut down entirely, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lynn as well as other bar owners and employees voiced their concerns at the commission meeting, asking for three more hours to be open each week.
“We’re just trying to find a way to be able to stay alive in the situation,” Lynn said.
Prior to the vote, bars were only allowed to be open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Shawnee County Health Officer Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino advised the council not to make this amendment during the meeting.
We asked Dr. Pezzino to comment on the decision and he refused, instead asking Dusty Nichols, Shawnee County Incident Commander for COVID-19, to speak in his place.
“I can’t say that it was wrong because I don’t know. I do think it’s a higher risk decision than what Dr. Pezzino originally had. I do think there’s a level of risk with not just bars, everyone,” Nichols said.
The county’s health leaders will continue to make adjustments where needed as the number of coronavirus cases change, Nichols said.
“Mid-September I think we need to be on the lookout,” Nichols said.
Chairman Bill Riphahn and Member Aaron Mays voted yes for the change. Vice Chair Kevin Cook voted no on extending bar hours.
The change went into effect immediately.