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Kansas City-Area Officials Call For Bar And Restaurant Closings To Prevent Spread Of COVID-19

Courtesy - Kelly's Westport Inn
Kelly's decided Monday to close until further notice to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas later madated all bars and restaurants close for in-person dining.

Officials across the Kansas City area on Monday called on all bars and restaurants to shut down dine-in service. In a sweeping e-mail announcement, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said restaurants and taverns should serve customers only through drive-thru, pickup, or delivery.

He also prohibited any gathering or event with more than 10 people. Officials in Jackson, Johnson and Wyandotte counties joined in the push to limit gatherings where the virus could spread.

Several Kansas City bars and restaurants had already decided to shut down to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The moves came a day ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, one of the most popular party days of the year in the metro.

Kelly’s Westport Inn, located in the heart of Westport and a popular gathering spot for holiday partiers, announced Monday it would close until further notice.

In a statement to KCUR, Kelly’s co-owner Colleen Kelly said her family was “saddened to close our doors but know it’s in the best interest of our staff, community and customers.”

She said they look forward to reopening “when the time is right.”

Earlier Monday, Dodson’s bar in Waldo announced it was closing indefinitely. In a post on Instagram, Dodson’s acknowledged it was a polarizing decision for customers.

“But as a team, we believe it’s in the community’s best interest to shut it down. Because we support you,” Dodson’s post said.

The Ship in the West Bottoms will also close. It’s another bar that typically draws large crowds on weekends.

Some local restaurants are also shutting down temporarily.

Farina and Extra Virgin, located next to one another in the Crossroads, will close for two weeks, according to e-mails sent to customers.  Grunauer will also close for two weeks.

The Rieger and Corvino Supper Club are closing their dining rooms but will offer daily to-go service.

Last week, organizers of the Kansas City St. Patrick's Day Parade canceled the event scheduled for Tuesday "due to rising concerns over COVID-19." Organizers called it "a difficult decision."

Meanwhile, Browne's Irish Marketplace, which hosts a large St. Patrick's Day gathering every year, announced it will be closed Tuesday. Browne's said on its Facebook page the "difficult decision" was made in order to "protect our employees, our friends, our patrons." 

On Monday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson said he is not mandating the closure of bars and restaurants statewide, but he is urging people and businesses to make responsible decisions about whether to stay open.

Parson met with Lucas Monday morning at City Hall for a briefing on COVID-19 preparedness.

The mayor issued a mandate Sunday prohibiting events and gatherings of 50 or more people. He urged residents to “reconsider” going out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday.

Establishments that openly violate that mandate could have liquor or food permits revoked.

Lucas said he’s also considering ways to compensate people who are losing income due to the closure of businesses, although it’s not clear what form that compensation might take.

In addition to lobbying the federal government for direct aid, he said the city is looking to reserve money to support “those who have fallen out of work.”

He says the city is considering several options, including tax breaks, waiving certain city fees and establish a fund in conjunction with private businesses to provide grants to small businesses.

City officials are also bracing for reduced revenue in the 2020-21 fiscal year due to a slowdown in business and tax collection because of the spread of the coronavirus.

This year’s budget is still being negotiated and must be finalized by March 26.

Lisa Rodriguez is KCUR's afternoon newscaster and City Hall reporter. She's on Twitter @larodrig.

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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