Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced bars were among businesses that can reopen as of Friday, but Juneau residents likely won’t see much of their favorite haunts this weekend.
The announcement that bars could reopen under certain restrictions surprised owners. That combined with widespread refits, maintenance and a general Juneau attitude prizing safety above reopening too quickly means that it will be a bit longer before bars are able to reopen.
“There’s a lot of stuff we’ve all been talking through the neighborhood, basically,” said Dave McGivney, owner of McGivney’s Sports Bar and Grill, in a phone interview. “I think we’re still being cautious. I’ve been talking to my staff, asking how they feel about it. Some of them can’t take that chance to pass it on to family members.”
At this time, none of Juneau’s pure bars will open Friday. Many owners cited concerns about opening too quickly, while others are waiting to see how best practices evolve for opening their bars while still adhering faithfully to CDC regulations. Other bars took advantage of the forced shutdown to carry out major refits or maintenance that can’t be interrupted.
Many owners cited poor or completely absent communication from the state on their plans as a reason for the confused response.
“We’re probably not going to be open this weekend,” said Jared Curé, owner of the Viking Lounge and the Narrows. “We’re going to see what happens. Basically, no one in this whole process has told us anything.”
The Viking Lounge, recently purchased by Curé, is in the middle of a major refit. And it’s not the only one. Imperial Billiards and Bar is also undergoing substantial renovations, though those are expected to be done and the bar to be open by next week, said manager Shelly Hurt, the bar manager. The renovations were as much about replacing inefficient parts of the bar itself as redesigning the whole premises to be safer for the employees and the community amid virus concerns.
Lack of state oversight?
As of late Thursday afternoon, the state’s promised guidance on best practices for reopening bars and other establishments had not been posted online. This left bar owners and others somewhat confused as to guidelines for safe service.
“I think a lot of our concern has a lot to do with as things start to open up. People still need to be conscientious about things,” said City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Carole Triem in a phone interview. “It’s a concern to everyone in the Assembly. If we see people act really irresponsibly we’ll talk about putting some restrictions in place.”
While the state health mandate declared that bars are able to reopen beginning Friday at 25% capacity, Juneau has not issued any word on the process one way or the other, Triem said. Assembly members will likely discuss the issue in a meeting Monday.
“You can’t wear a mask while drinking a Rainmaker at the Triangle,” Triem said, referring to a popular beverage at a bar downtown. “I hope that they’re giving business owners some guidelines to follow. And if they aren’t, maybe the Assembly can step in and offer some guidance.”
While business owners were displeased with the lack of communication and the lack of accommodations made for the industry during lockdown, some are making the best of the situation and looking forward to easing open safely.
“It’s hard to train without new info. My plan is a solid opening on Monday 11- 1 a.m. with that schedule going forward,” said Leeann Thomas, owner of the Triangle Club in an email. “We are going forward with hopes, prayers and a positive attitude. Our staff and customers have stayed healthy so far, and we plan on doing everything in our power to have this continue.”
For breweries and distilleries in Juneau, the uncertainty continues, as no guidance was offered. Establishments like Devil’s Club Brewing Company will continue to offer curbside pickup for their goods, co-owner Evan Wood said in a phone interview.
“We’re not sure if we’re included in that new phase,” said Makayla Chappell, tourism manager for Forbidden Peak Brewery. “Once we have a confirmed yes or no, we’ll make a plan moving forward.”
Across the board, owners, managers and staff of Juneau’s bars were grateful for the support of the community and looking forward to the day when they could welcome Juneau residents back safely and fully.
“I definitely want to give a shout out to the Juneau residents and folks for supporting us along the way,” McGivney said. “I want to make sure the residents know we do appreciate them. The staff appreciates them.”
The ‘weight’ is almost over
After weeks of mandated downtime, Juneau’s fitness centers are ready to cautiously get moving again.
Joe Parrish, managing partner for Pavitt Health and Fitness, and Steve Lewis, co-owner of The Gym, each said in separate phone interviews their respective facilities plan to open soon — 8 a.m. Friday for Pavitt and tentatively noon Saturday for the Gym.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Juneau’s Alaska Clubs weren’t ready to share reopening plans.
“We’re excited to open,” Parrish said. “We’ve been working hard on coming up with a plan to keep members and staff safe.”
Both Parrish and Lewis said being allowed to open is a welcome development but the Wednesday evening announcement didn’t allow for much time to put weeks of planning into action.
“We were hoping we would be included in Phase 2,” Parrish said. “We wish we would have had a little more notice.”
Lewis said he is hopeful that additional guidance from the state will be provided before Saturday, so his business can proceed as safely as possible.
“We just want to be super socially responsible,” Lewis said.
Parrish said signs will be posted, disinfectant wipes will be widely available, distancing will be enforced and staff will wear masks. Parrish said members won’t be made to wear masks, but some will be available.
Lewis said the staff was working to tape off sections of the gym to help enforce the mandate stating people must be separated by 10 feet at fitness centers.
He said disinfectant will be available, and he planned to use fitness class software to schedule workout times to prevent The Gym from getting too crowded.
The state mandates also include a requirement that fitness centers limit attendance to 25% of their capacity.
Lewis said that’s about a dozen people for The Gym, and Parrish said that works out to be about 44 people for Pavitt.
They also each said the coming weeks will feature some fine-tuning and atypical scheduling. For example, instead of 24/7 hours, Parrish said Pavitt will be open 6 a.m.-9 p.m., introduce child care Monday and it’s hot tub, steam room, and lap pool area will be closed.
Lewis said he anticipates having to help educate customers about new best practices a lot in the next few weeks.
Both men also thanked the Juneau community for support during the state-mandated closure.