Popular bars near Boise State’s campus have slowly been reopening amid the county wide shutdown in June.
Many local bar owners petitioned Central District Health (CDH) to allow them to reopen. CDH voted unanimously to allow Boise bars to reopen once Ada County schools are moved into the yellow category.
At the time of the Sept. 2 ruling, Ada County was in the red category. Red indicates significant community spread, while yellow signifies mild to moderate community spread. Since the ruling, Ada County has switched from red to yellow — allowing bars to open back up.
The petition created by owners of the bars to reopen 12 Boise bars included strict COVID-19 prevention measures. Those measures included proper sanitation of the facilities, safety measures for employees and customers as well as proper reporting, monitoring and tracking of COVID-19 cases to CDH.
Humpin’ Hannahs, a popular bar downtown, re-opened prior to the CDH ruling by transitioning to a food service restaurant.
Rocci Johnson, the owner of Humpin’ Hannahs, said it was imperative that they reopen as a restaurant in order to avoid the possible shutdown of the business and to maintain their employees’ incomes.
“We have been closed for the better part of five months. Most of our staff had run out of unemployment benefits. Many have been facing financial ruin and foreclosures. Our staff are like family to us and we care greatly about their welfare,” Johnson said. “We felt we could open safely under the same protocols as restaurants did months ago, by implanting the similar protocol standards, in order to keep our staff safe as well as our beloved patrons.”
Johnson reaffirmed that Humpin’ Hannahs is taking proper safety precautions and adhering to COVID-19 physical distancing protocols.
“When patrons are seated with their party, they can remove their masks to eat and drink, in the same way they have been doing at restaurants for some time. We have socially distanced tables,” Johnson said. “There is no live music or dancing allowed, we have hand sanitizer everywhere and we have a strict 25% capacity limit.”
Johnson understands reopening a popular bar will trigger excitement and cause long lines to form outside of the establishment causing many to question how safe those big crowds are.
“We consulted with law enforcement to see if there were some things we could implement to keep people safe even though the line forms outside, and is not within our property boundaries. We came up with a system that if a line forms on the sidewalk, we ask people politely to please wear their masks and social distance while in waiting,” Johnson said.
Students at Boise State have had mixed reactions on bars reopening in the area. Garret Hay, a junior business major, is happy that bars are reopening, giving him some much needed time to unwind on the weekends.
“Personally, I’m excited that bars are reopening, and if the bars are able to follow all of the guidelines that are provided, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Hay said.
Hay believes it should be on the students at Boise State to take personal preventive measures when going out to bars.
“If you or someone you live with is at high risk, then you should stay home, but everyone has the right to their own decisions when it comes to going out for some fun,” Hay said.
Vanessa Kent, a junior interdisciplinary studies major, is against bars reopening and doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
“We are barely keeping the campus and schools open right now,” Kent said. “Being 21 at the bars comes with a lot of bad choices.”
Kent said most young people at bars are not cognizant of their behavior and how easily they can expose others to the virus.
“I work with someone who has lung issues, vision problems and alzheimers, so I’m very conscious of where I go, who I’m around and what I touch,” Kent said. “I think with the bars being open and the college population that only cares about their social life and not the bigger picture of the world, [students] are putting others at risk and being selfish in a way.”
Kent adds that she’s not convinced proper sanitation and physical distancing protocols will cut it and believes that relying on young college students under the influence to make smart choices.
“I don’t think the precautions are good enough. When people are under the influence, they are touching each other and they’re all over each other,” Kent said. “Even with proper sanitation, I don’t think it’s enough because bars and restaurants are generally dirty places where germs can spread easily, especially amongst young college students.”