Bars in Virginia will remain closed when the state enters Phase Three of its reopening plan on Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced late Tuesday afternoon.
Reversing an earlier plan to allow bar seating to open in Phase Three with physical distancing requirements in place, Northam cited surges of coronavirus cases in other states, some of which have been attributed to bars.
Bar seating and congregating areas of restaurants will remain closed except for those passing through, Northam said. Restaurants may use non-bar seating in the bar area, as long as a minimum of 6 feet between tables is provided.
“I am watching what is happening in other states—we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase Three and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas,” Northam added in a news release.
"We want these trends to continue, but if our public health metrics begin moving in the wrong direction, I will not hesitate to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities," he added.
When Phase Three begins at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, restaurants can offer indoor dining at full capacity, but must maintain physical distancing requirements and employees must wear masks. Northern Virginia is entering Phase Three with the rest of the state even though it was delayed entering Phases One and Two.
Other major changes during Phase Three include:
- Swimming pools can reopen for recreation at 75% capacity, subject to physical distancing requirements.
- Retail stores can open at full capacity.
- Gyms and indoor fitness centers can increase from 30% capacity to 75% capacity.
- Gatherings of up to 250 people are allowed.
- Entertainment venues, such as movie theaters, museums and bowling alleys can open at 50% capacity or a maximum of 1,000 people, whichever is lower.
In all cases, physical distancing requirements must be followed and masks are required to be worn indoors except when eating or exercising.
Northam emphasized that Virginians are strongly encouraged to:
- continue teleworking if possible
- wash hands regularly
- maintain 6 feet of physical distance when outside of home
- get tested immediately if you have COVID-19 symptoms