Alachua County commissioners discuss possible new COVID restrictions for bars, restaurants

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 6:10 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - A surge in Alachua County COVID cases has sparked debate for potential new restrictions on local bars and restaurants.

While it was a topic of discussion in the commission meeting, there were no actual decisions made on whether there will be new restrictions put in place. For many bar and restaurant owners, a change like this could mean closing their doors for good.

“I know certainly that would be the nail on the coffin for a few businesses locally and a lot of businesses nationally,” said Madrina’s owner Tj Palmieri.

There is still hope, for now.

“It was recommended by our health department for us to hold steady ... they said while our COVID numbers are increasing, our hospital capacity is not at crisis mode,” said Anna Prizzia, Alachua County commissioner.

Health officials in that meeting said they predict a majority of the recent spike is related to the holidays. If the numbers continue to rise and hospitals reach that crisis capacity, the topic will be more heavily considered.

As for business owners, the financial impact of COVID already may take them years to recover from and there’s less hope for them if these restrictions are put in place.

“Unfortunately, federal care dollars have stopped,” said Prizzia. “I am hopeful we will see additional organizational support from them at some point in the future but at the current state we do not have additional resources of funding.”

There is no timeline for when a decision will be made. There is a town hall meeting a the end of January where commissioners will discuss the topic with medical professionals and potentially come to a decision.

“I think there is a sense of responsibility we share to each other [as business owners], ourselves, and the community to do things the right way and try to stay healthy. I think there would probably be a tremendous sense of frustration if the rules changed again without any real science-based evidence to back it up,” said Palmieri.

This is a developing story.

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