INDIANAPOLIS — Many Marion County bar and nightclub owners are preparing to reopen Tuesday at 25% capacity indoors, but some said the continuing restrictions are not doing them any favors.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett made the announcement on Thursday morning and cited the city’s progress in lowering COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. For bars and nightclubs with outdoor space, that can reopen at 50% capacity. Bar seating will remain prohibited, and people are asked to remain seated at a table while inside.
Local bars and nightclubs that have been shut down for several months during the coronavirus pandemic. A group of bar owners who met Thursday with News 8 said they are finding it hard to be excited about reopening. They say the mayor’s announcement felt like a slap in the face to the entire industry.
Ryan Greb of Taps and Dolls in downtown Indianapolis on Thursday found the most activity he’s had in months at the second-floor tavern with 50 taps, video games, and weekend dance parties.
“We’ve been closed for five months. We’re lucky we’ve even made it this long,” Greb said.
Taps and Dolls is not open just yet though. All the people at the venue were not there for fun.
Greb said, “We fall upon deaf ears. That’s what I say when it comes to this. Nobody’s listening to us. Nobody hears our cry. Nobody feels our pain.”
The eight Marion County bar owners noted Hogsett’s attempt to joke about the situation during his announcement. The mayor said, “I promise you that Dr. Caine and her team will go full ‘Footloose’ on your business if you’re operating as a dance club.”
That comment offended all eight-bar owners.
Greb said, “I’m offended by it, that they would say it that way. It’s not a joke. This is not a joke to us. This is our lives.”
Cherie Smith from After 6 Lounge, which is also downtown, said what bothers her more than the joke is when it comes to the pandemic all industries don’t seem to be treated equally.
Smith, “We shut down like everyone else did at the beginning of the year but we are the only industry left that has such strict restrictions in place.”
When Hogsett ordered a second round of closures back in July, he and the Marion County Department of Public Health pointed to data that showed a rise in cases for people from ages 18-30.
Bar owners say it’s not fair for them to take all the blame.
Smith said, “We do not think that, single-handedly, bars and clubs are the reason why the numbers have spiked in Marion County.”
The owner of Whiskey Business in Lawrence and Southport, Mike Doran said he just wants a little guidance from local government leaders, some such as “we’re gonna look for something to help you guys out. We’re gonna look for some kind of forgiveness.”
But so far, he says, that hasn’t happened.
Doran said, “It’s just close your doors. Sorry, you (had to) put your life into this and your life savings.”
For many that savings are gone and if things don’t change, they fear their businesses will be next.
Greb said, “People come to town. There’s nothing here. They walk into the streets, and it’s a ghost town.”