FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Businesses that sell alcohol must close at 11 p.m. in response to growing COVID-19 cases, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Thursday. A local bar owner said the restriction makes it harder to stay afloat during the pandemic, and targeted funding is needed to keep small-business owners in the green.
Bo Counts owns Pinpoint Bar in Fayetteville, “the only pinball bar in the state of Arkansas,” which opened in 2018.
Since the pandemic first hit back in March, Pinpoint and other businesses have struggled to retain enough of a customer base to make a needed profit.
“As we’ve transitioned into this period, business has been slow on top of all these restrictions,” Counts said.
The governor’s announcement concerning bars and other venues that serve alcohol caused concern for Counts, who said this couldn’t come at a worse time.
“December is our bread-money month,” Counts said. “That’s where we make our living. It’s historically been our biggest month.”
Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Dept. of Health said the governor’s executive order has a simple objective.
“The goal is to lessen the spread of COVID-19,” Dillaha said.
The data backs up the decision, Dillaha said.
“There’s a congregation of people who are not social distancing, they’re less likely to wear a facemask,” Dillaha said. “That’s just a perfect situation for a lot of spread.”
Counts said punishing the bar industry is unfair, and he added big-box retailers and corporations remain open despite doing less to protect people.
“We’re worried about food-borne illness, we’re worried about keeping you safe, we’ve already been doing that,” Counts said. “Home Depot, Walmart, those places never have and still don’t.”
The state needs to target relief to small businesses like local bars, Counts said, since they’ll need it most during this period, which starts Friday and ends Jan. 3.
“We’re real people trying hard to survive, and when we’re being held to the same standard as a McDonalds or Starbucks, it’s impossible to keep up.”