The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board this morning announced new restrictions on bars during the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective immediately, all ABC licensees are required to cease the service and/or sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. with on-premise consumption to end at 11:30 p.m.
During a board meeting today, ABC Board Administrator H. Mac Gipson said they were contacted by the governor’s office last week “about closing bars and gyms” in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, which has increased significantly in recent weeks after business restrictions were lifted. But Gipson said the Board proposed a less restrictive measure, which initially was to cease serving alcohol at 10 p.m. The proposal was amended to extend it until 11 p.m. and approved by unanimous vote of the board this morning.
“A bar by its definition is a congregation of people,” Gipson explained. “There are very few where they can space out six feet apart. In this coronavirus situation, in order to reduce the transmission of the disease, I think [the new restriction] is better than a complete shutdown.
We understand what bars and restaurants are going through .. but as difficult as this as a regulatory agency, to me this is a happy medium.”
Restaurants and bars may still serve food past 11 p.m., but not alcohol. Enforcement begins Aug. 1. Any business found not in compliance risks immediate suspension of its alcohol license.
There is no expiration date attached to the new rule, but in a subsequent news release, ABC Board Chairperson Col. Alan Spencer said it would be “a very short duration” and the board “will relieve this restriction as soon as possible.”
“We are very sensitive to the economic impact this rule will have,” Spencer wrote. “This is a gut-wrenching decision we are making today, but it is also gut-wrenching to see the number of Alabamians who are suffering from this disease.”
In the news release, the Board explained, “it is widely believed that alcohol consumption reduces inhibitions” and as such, “after consuming alcoholic beverages individuals are less likely to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines, including the wearing of masks and social distancing, potentially increasing the transmission of COVID-19.”
“Our hope is that reduced hours of alcohol service will decrease social gatherings and the transmission of COVID-19,” Gipson said. “Our number one goal is to protect the public and our license holders. We believe this emergency order will reduce the exposure to and spread of COVID-19.”
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