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Select Ada County bars approved for reopening

After being closed for months, select bars in Ada County can now reopen under guidance from Central District Health.

BOISE, Idaho — For the first time in months, select bars in Ada County are now cleared to open.

Back in June, a cluster of close to 100 COVID cases was traced back to a collection of bars in downtown Boise.              

In the days following that news, bar owners worked to implement new protocols to cut down on the spread.

That effort however was not successful, and less than a week later, Central District Health ordered the bars close again as the county rolled back to Stage 3.  

Now, in September, some bars are going to give opening up another shot.

This time though, COVID operational procedures will be way stricter than in June.

“We don’t want people to feel like we pointed a finger at them unnecessarily, we want to be able to learn from our mistakes and grow from those mistakes and not make the same mistakes again,” said Brandon Atkins with Central District Health.

Atkins says instead of a loose understanding of what needs to be done to open and stay open, CDH is working closely with bars to make sure requirements are met.

Similar to how restaurants worked to reopen, CDH requires bars that wanted to reopen to file an application with a very concise plan based on a comprehensive list of requirements from CDH.

“The plans are really interesting, they are very diverse," Atkins said. "Some plans were almost verbatim, they followed the guidance that was given in our online document and they outline how they will address each of those. Others were more verbose, they go through and talk about extra precautions they are going to take. But the thing that is important in those plans is that they are making a plan to follow through.” 

A big part of that is capacity limits and physical setups, bars will now look much different.

“They have to be seated a certain distance apart from one another, six feet or more," Atkins said. "They have to display that they have an ability to help reduce transmission risks by having patrons covered up, making sure they are distanced when they are ordering, when they are coming in, all of those things have to be addressed in their plans.”

The bars will look and operate like restaurants. Per the criteria people will need to sit at tables to enjoy their drinks. When people are not seated with their group, they are expected to wear a mask per the CDH health order still in effect. Things like dance floors will not be open.

The criteria outlines that security staff is required to enforce COVID-19 safety protocols including social distancing.

“Someone who actually tells people, this is what we are doing this is how it needs to be operating and if you are not willing to do that, that they will need to instruct those individuals they won’t allow them onto the premises,” Atkins said.

This following list of 17 bars have had their applications and plans approved by CDH, and they are now free to open.

  • Terry’s Saloon
  • 44 Club
  • 9th Street Nook
  • Bottle Cap Bar
  • Cowgirls
  • Eastside Tavern
  • Lydia's Mardi Gras
  • Neurolux
  • Pengilly’s Saloon
  • Revolution Concert House & Event Center
  • The Symposion Lounge
  • The Construction Zone
  • The Longhorn Lounge
  • The Silly Birch
  • The Torch
  • The Torch 2
  • Tom Grainey’s

CDH says for the plans to be successful and for bars to stay open, people will need to follow the rules.

“People will make or break this for these businesses," Atkins said. "People’s willingness to participate in a way that is thoughtful and that takes into account the risks that are eminent around us, will be the reason that these businesses are able to stay open or close.” 

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