Local bar owners react to new Shawnee County restrictions

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – New restrictions are being added to bars in Shawnee County because health officials say they’re linked to an uptick in coronavirus cases.

Skinny’s has been a popular Topeka spot for decades now. Owner Mark Schonlaw said they’ve had their ups and downs.

“The day I opened up was the day of 9/11 and that was bad. That was horrible. This is right up there and that’s 20 years in between,” Schonlaw said.

The pandemic is definitely a down time for them.

“You miss out on that money and that revenue coming in,” Schonlaw said.

Now, just when they thought things were getting back to almost normal, Shawnee County announced bars can only stay open from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and then 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

“We’re done griping about it. You just gotta do what they tell you and hope they start to open things back up,” Schonlaw said

Health leaders said they made the decision because bars are connected to an uptick in cases.

“People hadn’t seen each other in a while, so they come in and they hug, and you’re like ‘oh gosh that’s not good.’ You can’t make them separate, you just kind of suggest it,” Schonlaw said.

Customer Marvin Nioce said he agrees with the decision, but doesn’t want to see it hurt businesses in the long term.

“Especially now that the uprise is on up. Yeah, as long as it’s temporary,” Nioce said,”I agree with it for safety, but as far as businesses effect, it’s going to bother them, especially late night bars.”

For now Skinny’s is going to keep up their cleaning and hope for the best. Because ultimately this is better than another complete shutdown.

“They could just say pull the plug and say back to carryout only so you just got to deal with it,” Schonlaw said. “It’s tough, this is new. This is probably the new norm so we’ve got to figure it out and figure it out quickly.”

Some other local bar owners are not as optimistic about the new restrictions. They met with the Shawnee County Health Department and other bar owners on Monday, so they’re frustrated by Tuesday’s decision.

Billy Noel owns Breaker’s Sports Bar & Grill.

“We did everything that they’ve asked of us to social distancing, the masks, whatever. I feel like if they were on the frontline they would understand a whole lot better,” Noel said.

Frankie Saiya, who owns Abigail’s Bar and Grill, is also frustrated with the decision.

“Some of us just barely getting back on our feet now, just getting our bills back to even and they’re going to do this. It’s going to be devastating,” Saiya said.

Meanwhile another bar is shutting down indefinitely, because of the change.

Brass Rail Tavern in Topeka’s Oakland neighborhood wrote on Facebook Tuesday saying they are closing for an indefinite amount of time. The post said the new adjusted hours that bars can be open will not accommodate them, so they are closing their doors at 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday.

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