Business partners J.J. Gillenwater & Blair Jones, who own the Quaker Steak & Lube franchise location in Bristol, Virginia, have to remind customers on a nightly basis around 9:30 p.m. that they need to finish up and head on out because their restaurant and bar is closing. Then, as the two told Clay Travis Thursday morning on his OutKick radio show (interview starts at 33:00 mark), they have to watch customers walk out the front door, cross the street into Bristol, Tennessee.
“You can watch it every evening,” Gillenwater told Clay. Customers head on over to Tennessee, where COVID restrictions don’t include bar and restaurant curfews. The party can go on across the street, while Gillenwater and Jones contemplate what they can do to battle Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
“We are consistently losing money because of these restrictions,” Jones added. “Live entertainment has been curtailed which has impacted our late-night sales having to shut down at 10 p.m. It’s been a real killer for us.”
The story of Bristol, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee dealing with different lockdown restrictions isn’t new. The mainstream media has covered the unique aspects of the city with the state line running down the middle of the street going all the way back to May 2020 when CNN reported that Virginia restaurants weren’t allowed to accept Tennessee customers.
Fox came to town in December to report on how business owners were hoping for a united front from state governments.
It’s now February 18, and Gillenwater and Jones are still watching loyal customers continue their nights across the street in Tennessee. They’re understandably frustrated.
“We’re being held to a standard from northern Virginia, the D.C. area. It’s ridiculous. It’s two totally different areas of the country,” Gillenwater told Clay.
If help is on the way, it won’t come until the end of month at the earliest, and people aren’t holding their breath. In late January, Gov. Northam extended an executive order on bars and restaurants until the end of February.
Those rules for Gillenwater, Jones and other Virginia restaurant owners are:
a. No alcoholic beverage shall be sold, consumed, or possessed on premises after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, 3 distillery, winery, or tasting room. Alcoholic beverages may continue to be sold via delivery or take-out after 10:00 p.m., as permitted by existing regulations promulgated by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.
b. Closure of all dining and congregation areas in restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms may continue to offer delivery and take-out services between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
c. All parties must be separated by at least six feet, including in the bar area. Tables at which dining parties are seated must be positioned six feet apart from other tables. If tables are not movable, parties must be seated at least six feet apart, including in the bar area.
d. Customers may be provided with self-service options. Facilities must provide hand sanitizer at food lines and require the use of barriers (e.g., gloves or deli paper) when employees or patrons touch common utensils. Food lines must be monitored by trained staff at all times of operation, and serving utensils must be changed hourly.
e. Employees must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth while working at their place of employment.
f. Patrons must wear face coverings, except while eating or drinking.
g. Routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently-contacted surfaces must be conducted every 60 minutes during operation. Tabletops must be cleaned in between patrons.
h. Bar seats and congregating areas of restaurants must be closed to patrons except for through-traffic. Non-bar seating in the bar area (i.e., tables or counter seats that do not line up to a bar or food service area) may be used for customer seating as long as a minimum of six feet is provided between parties at tables.
i. If any such business cannot adhere to these requirements, it must close