Delayed Phase 3 Keeps Bars Closed, Restaurants Limited

The Connecticut Restaurant Association is working to find compromise as the hospitality industry seeks loosened restrictions.

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Vaughan’s Public House has been closed since March 16, the day before St. Patrick’s Day.  It was a cruel twist of fate for this Irish Pub which is eager to reopen.

Like many bar owners, Johnny Vaughan was hoping Connecticut’s Phase 3 would allow him to reopen July 20. However, with the governor’s decision to put Phase 3 on hold, that won’t happen.

“I kind of felt it was coming down the line. We kind of prepared for the worst I suppose,” explained Vaughan.

Connecticut bars have now been closed nearly four months.

“Most people felt it was just gonna be for a few weeks or a month,” added Vaughan. “I don’t think we realized it was this severe.”

The Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA) said the effect on bars has been devastating. They estimate 400 have been closed through all phases of reopening. The CRA aims to change that.

“You’re right now telling a sector of this industry they can’t open. They can’t get their business back on its feet. There has to be a way to do it and do it safely,” said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

Bars aren’t the only part of the hospitality industry hoping for more leeway in Phase 3.

"Our business has dropped off considerably,” said Mike Butler, owner of Francesca’s Wine Bar & Bistro in Collinsville.

Connecticut’s Phase 2, which began June 17, has allowed some indoor seating at restaurants like Francesca's but Butler is looking forward to the day he can open at full capacity.

“One of the problems with the 50% space is that we can only really utilize 30% space because of the six-foot of spacing,” said Butler referencing the social distance guidelines in place for indoor dining.

Phase 3 offered hope of expanding those limitations. For now though, those hopes are on hold. The CRA says it's disappointed.

“We’ve done everything in Connecticut as an industry to prove that we can do this safely. We can keep customers safe and we can keep our employees safe,” Dolch said.

Not only will restaurants be unable to increase seating, events like weddings and other receptions will continue having restricted capacity.

The CRA said it is lobbying state leaders for more flexibility. Meanwhile restaurants remain limited and bars closed. Still some, like Vaughan, understand why.

“People’s safety comes first and until they feel safe doing that we’re just going to roll in behind what the Governor says,” agreed Vaughan.

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