Bars deal with COVID orders on the biggest bar night of the year

COVID orders mean bars can't serve people indoors. How are they complying?

In any other year, the day before Thanksgiving would find crowds of people crammed inside bars with people from out of town visiting locals they haven’t seen in months. COVID-19 restrictions issued by the state health department put a damper on that tradition – limiting bars to only serving people outdoors.

Some establishments in Kalamazoo are coping with the new restrictions by setting up heated outdoor dining spaces. Others are falling back on takeout in an effort to weather the worst of the pandemic.

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Outdoors: Before the state even issued its new COVID-19 restrictions, Bells Brewery was preparing for the biggest bar night of the year. The restaurant and brewery expanded into its outdoor beer garden by setting up tents, canopies, and fire pits to keep people warm and protected from November’s unpredictable weather.

Director of Hospitality Ryan Tovey told MLive they’re taking safety very seriously.

“We would never know if we did too much in the way of safety but will certainly find out if we didn’t do enough,” he said.

The Green Top Tavern in downtown Kalamazoo is smaller, but following the same model with holiday revelers invited to the outdoor patio behind the bar.

“The patio is open and we are ready to rock!” reads a post on its Facebook page.

Takeout: Most bars don’t have the luxury of moving into the outdoors. Kalamazoo’s oldest continually operating bar, Louie’s Trophy House, encouraged people to order meals and drinks to go, taking advantage of recent state laws allowing bars to offer cocktails for takeout.

Fletcher’s Pub in Texas Corners is also offering takeout. In a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, they encourage patrons to order in by offering free deliveries.

Closed: Most bars are just plain closing down for the duration of the state’s three-week COVID-19 shutdown.

The Entertainment District in downtown Kalamazoo would typically be filled to the brim on Wednesday night. The district is comprised of several themed bars, including Wild Bull, the Gatsby, and the former Monaco Bay. Rather than contend with enforcing coronavirus safety rules, the entire operation shut down in mid-October.

You can read more about how bars throughout Michigan are dealing with the pandemic on MLive.

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