This is a developing story that will be updated as new information becomes available.
The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States continues to grow, and one measure the federal government may implement next is this industry's worse nightmare: a federal mandate to close bars and restaurants.
Yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told CNN that he would like to see a dramatic reduction in public gatherings when asked if he would like to see a national lockdown.
As such, he has suggested temporarily shutting down the nation's restaurants and bar.
"I would like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction we see in restaurants and in bars," says Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has infinitely more expertise than Nunes.pic.twitter.com/UBJgT8PHHQ— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) March 15, 2020
Could this really happen? While this would be one of the most drastic responses we have ever seen in our lifetime, this virus' impact is also unprecedented. With a mortality rate climbing in Italy (see Johns Hopkins tracking), every nation is cracking down on public gatherings. Looking at the countries that are a few weeks or days ahead of us, we see Italy, France, and Spain have barred on-premise dining and many locations are restricted to takeaway only. More countries are being added daily to the list, including Ireland and parts of Canada.
Domestically, we see this happening in local cities, with Hoboken, NJ, forcing all bars that do not serve food to close and restaurants to only offer takeout and delivery. Ohio's Governor Mike DeWine is currently considering the same measure statewide. Their state already has one of the lowest public gathering number restrictions at 100 people or less. South Boston shut down bars on March 15 after pictures of busy bars and lines outside surfaced from St. Patrick's Day weekend.
[Update 3/15 4:30 p.m.] Ohio has announced that they are closing bars and on-premise dining starting at 9:00 p.m. on March 15. Illinois and Pennsylvania are also enacting measures to limit operating hours.
Other locations are doing this voluntarily, with famed Chef José Andrés announcing all of his restaurants in D.C. will be closing. Danny Meyer has also shut down all of his operations in NYC. Other operations are closing because they have no choice with the drop in traffic and event business.
People of America...Important News: All my restaurants in DC area are closed until further notice. Here at @ThinkFoodGroup safety of employees & guests is too priority. Some restaurants will transform into Community Kitchens to offer to-go lunches for those who need a meal. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/3HTyT607ZI— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) March 15, 2020
Until anything is official, it's important for bar and restaurant owners to monitor the safety of their staff and patrons, their cash flow, and options for surviving these distressing times if they go past the March 30 date many states have implemented for their state of emergency.
China had operations close between two to three weeks depending on the area. Italy has taken measures that have only increased restrictions every few days as the infection and death toll rises. Until America sees a flattening out in cases, it's will certainly add to the possibility that this federal mandate could be coming.