Jackson County eases restaurant rule

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

Jackson County says it is relaxing an indoor dining time restriction, effective Thursday, to lessen confusion and be fair to businesses around the county. 

Bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve food and alcohol until midnight, and all patrons must exit by 12:30 a.m. Since November, when COVID-19 cases noticeably surged again in the metro area, bars and restaurants have had to close at 10 p.m.

The revised county guideline does not apply to Kansas City or Independence, though it is similar to the guidelines in Independence, and Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas also announced Wednesday that the city is allowing indoor dining until midnight.

Independence, which has allowed bar and restaurant indoor service until midnight since it reinstated its own health department in mid-December, says it has no immediate plans to change guidelines. The city and county generally mirror each other on guidelines such as capacity and gathering limits (50 percent capacity with masks and social distancing, and submitted protocols required to have public gatherings of more than 10).

Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. stressed that the relaxed guidelines still mean citizens shouldn’t be less vigilant, noting that positive test percentages and hospital capacity remain high.

“Let me be clear – our situation has not improved over the past two months,” White said in a release. “However, to remain consistent with neighboring jurisdictions, lessen confusion among residents and create fairness for Eastern Jackson County businesses, we have decided to move forward in this manner. It is still dangerous to gather in large groups, so I urge residents to remain vigilant in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Bridgette Shaffer, director of the County Health Department, urged citizens to still consider curbside pickup or delivery to avoid risks of dining in, and to avoid situations in which it can be difficult to maintain social distancing and wear masks.

“We need community members to practice personal responsibility,” Shaffer said in the release.