A local Worcester bar is being accused of violating Massachusetts' coronavirus regulations. If the allegations are true, it could lead to serious repercussions for the tavern. Unfortunately, following the rules is not easy, especially for small businesses, like bars, that make most of their income by serving alcohol.
Worcester Bar Accused of Violating COVID Protocol
Dirt McGirt's, which opened just about a year ago on Main Street in Worcester, was the target of a sting investigation by local law enforcement on September 18. According to news reports, a police officer and a special investigator watching from outside saw people being served alcohol over the bar and “very little food service.” They also saw patrons walking around inside without wearing a mask.
The bar received a citation for violating the state's coronavirus regulations, even though the regulations were changed five days later to allow for bar seating. A hearing has been scheduled for October 14, in front of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. The bar could lose its license to serve alcohol.
Coronavirus Regulations are Essential…
There is no doubt that coronavirus regulations are essential for public safety and health: We are in the middle of a pandemic that has already killed more than 200,000 Americans and shows little signs of letting up.
However, the desperate need for public health regulations does not mean that the rules can be haphazard or poorly defined. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Massachusetts bars and taverns have had to deal with over the past several months.
…But They Fail When It Comes to Bars and Taverns
Massachusetts’ coronavirus regulations closed bars and nightclubs, but allowed “restaurants” to stay open. Infamously, bars in the state – desperate to make ends meet – quickly pivoted to fit into the definition of a “restaurant” by providing food to their patrons, in addition to drinks.
The reason for the distinction between a bar and a restaurant were clear: In bars, people mingle and walk around and breathe all over the establishment, potentially infecting everyone there. In restaurants, they sit down in one place which, if it is isolated enough, reduces the risk of infecting others.
However, the COVID regulations do not focus on whether people are confined to their table or are allowed to mingle around. Instead, they force patrons to order food, apparently in the thought that, if they have a plate of food, they will sit at a table and stay there.
In bars, though, requiring patrons to order food has not proven to be a practical way to get them to sit down and stay seated. Socializing has long been a part of the experience of going to a bar, and that coronavirus has not changed that. Unfortunately, lawmakers have been extremely slow to react to these realities. The result has been a patchwork of regulations that are not designed for bars. Complying with them has proven difficult, and this has led to numerous citations across the state.
Massachusetts Small Business and Business Litigation Attorneys at the Katz Law Group
The small business and business litigation lawyers at the Katz Law Group strive to help business owners in Worcester, Marlborough, and Framingham comply with the new and ever-evolving coronavirus regulations in Massachusetts. Contact them online or call their law office at (508) 480-8202.