Pandemic Shutters Bars, Restaurants

Localities order eateries, public venues to close to in-store patrons, but drive-thrus, delivery are OK for now.

March 17, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The governors in at least 11 states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington—and the mayors of the District of Columbia, New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco have closed bars and restaurants in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Governors and mayors nationwide are grappling with how far government should go in restricting the movement and gathering of citizens in order to encourage “social distancing.” 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy yesterday announced a voluntary statewide curfew advising residents not to leave their homes from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

San Francisco and surrounding counties are prohibiting anyone from leaving their homes "except for essential outings,” NBC reports. Gas stations, drugstores, grocery stores, banks and essential government services will remain open, along with restaurants but for takeout and delivery orders only, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said. Bars and gyms are closed.

New York City bars and restaurants are closed, except for delivery and pickup services. The ban also applies to nightclubs, movie theaters and concert venues, reports the New York Times.

Los Angeles bars also have been closed by the city, and restaurants have been forced to suspend dine-in service. Food and nightlife proprietors fear some establishments might not reopen, the Los Angeles Times reports. The restrictions, which run through March 31, also apply to movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers, but grocery stores, pharmacies and food banks will remain open.

D.C. officials ordered all restaurants and bars to stop dine-in service as of 10 p.m. yesterday. Only carryout and delivery service is allowed under the order through the end of the month, the Washington Post reports. Maryland last night also suspended in-store bar and restaurant service but will allow carryout and delivery.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf yesterday ordered nonessential businesses across the state to close. Gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores can remain open, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. But all state liquor stores will close indefinitely at 9 p.m. today, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said. Nearby Delaware also is limiting bars, restaurants and taverns to takeout and delivery.

Meanwhile, some businesses are self-regulating on-site social interaction ahead of any government-ordered closures. McDonald’s said yesterday that it would close dining rooms at company-owned restaurants in the U.S. and has asked franchisees to do the same. Drive-thru, takeout and delivery still will be available. Chick-fil-A also has temporarily closed dining room seating at all locations to help limit person-to-person contact. Some outlets may only offer drive-thru food service, while others may provide takeout, delivery or mobile order options.

Wawa said yesterday that it was temporarily limiting access to in-store seating areas in some Pennsylvania stores. In a statement posted on its website, Wawa said that “delivery service is widely available at 70% of Wawa store service areas through third-party providers like Door Dash, Uber Eats and Grub Hub.”  

Yesterday, the White House urged all older Americans to stay home and everyone to avoid crowds and eating at restaurants as part of sweeping guidelines meant to combat an expected increase of the virus. President Trump and the coronavirus task force released the guidelines as the U.S. government moved to try to blunt the impact of the virus, while increasing testing.

Among the new recommendations: During the next 15 days, Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10 people, all schooling should be done at home and discretionary travel and social visits should be nixed. If anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should remain at home.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned that people were “going to have to hunker down.” Meanwhile, retailers nationwide are limiting store hours to focus on deep cleanings and to restock store shelves, and some are closing outlets.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.