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Downtown Boise bar owners will ask customers to wear masks as illness cluster grows

Posted at 9:24 AM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 22:25:55-04

BOISE, Idaho — This article was originally published by Ximena Bustillo of the Idaho Statesman.

Many downtown Boise bars will begin asking customers to wear face coverings and emphasizing social distancing after an illness cluster broke out at various locations, Central District Health announced Thursday night.

A virtual meeting between Central District Health and more than 10 bar owners and operators from Boise’s downtown resulted in agreement on several measures bars will take to limit spread of the coronavirus. An illness cluster that began with a group of bar goers on June 5 and 6 has expanded to 69 cases so far, CDH said — including “many who exposed other members of the public by going to a number of bars and nightclubs while they were infectious.”

That illness cluster contributed to Idaho’s soaring coronavirus caseload. Health districts reported 102 new confirmed cases Thursday, half of which were in Ada County. It was the most in the state and the county since early April.

“We recognize that wearing a face covering might not be the preferred thing to do when you’re out socializing, but nothing related to this global pandemic, which stands to become very serious in our community, is comfortable or easy,” Russ Duke, district director for CDH, said in a press release. “We want to keep people healthy, ensure our hospitals don’t become overwhelmed and keep our businesses open so that they can begin thriving again. To do this, we all need to make some sacrifices. Wearing a face covering in public and respecting any guidelines in place by a business are simple, low- or no-cost sacrifices that we can all do today and every day.”

CDH and bar owners reviewed operational guidance for bars created by the state and discussed ideas to keep people healthy and businesses open, the release said. Participating establishments included: Humpin’ Hannah’s, Silly Birch, Whiskey Bar, Tom Grainey’s, Amsterdam, Strangelove, Dirty Little Roddy’s, Pengilly’s, Neurolux, Cactus Bar, Mulligans and Karma and 8th Street Social Club.

In order to mitigate the spread of the virus, ideas agreed to include:

  • Bar staff members will consistently wear face coverings.
  • Customers will be asked to wear a face covering.
  • Physical distancing and occupancy restrictions will be in place.
  • CDH and bar owners will work to educate the public on responsible socializing amid COVID-19.
  • CDH will offer establishments an on-site technical review of operational plans for increased safety and sanitation.

The changes will be made as soon as possible, CDH said, but some may take time. One example: providing face coverings for customers who don’t have one.

“After three months of a shutdown, the most difficult route would be to face another closure of our vital and important industry,” Rocci Johnson, co-owner of Humpin’ Hannah’s, said in the press release.

Cactus, Silly Birch, Tom Grainey’s, Matador and more were among the downtown locations to disclose patrons with potential exposure.

Downtown Boise restaurant 10 Barrel Brewing Co. plans to reopen on Friday after a weeklong closure due to an employee testing positive. Restaurant and bar Bittercreek Alehouse and next-door neighbor Diablo & Son have also closed again as a temporary coronavirus precaution.