LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas health officials have shut down a Little Rock bar after tracing it to a cluster of coronavirus cases and finding the business wasn’t complying with virus safety measures.
The Department of Health on Saturday ordered Brewski’s Pub and Grub to cease operations until it appears before a state panel. According to the order, state Alcohol Beverage Control officials inspected the bar last week after cases were traced back to it.
it is the first bar Arkansas has closed for not complying with coronavirus safety rules. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has opposed closing down bars again as the state grapples with a surge of cases and has instead said the state can target ones that aren’t following the safety rules.
“We expect compliance with our public health guidelines, and if someone is not complying with those, then if they are not willing to enforce it they cannot stay in operation,” Hutchinson said Monday.
Inspectors found the bar exceeded a two-thirds capacity limit and wasn’t ensuring patrons were social distancing or wearing masks. The Health Department is aware of at least seven people who went to the bar within 14 days before being diagnosed with the virus, a spokeswoman said.
Under the health department rules, bar patrons must wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible until their food or drink is served. According to the order, a manager told an ABC agent: “We can’t make them wear masks. We wish they would, but we can’t do much.”
There was no answer at the bar Monday, but is said in a Facebook post that three of its employees tested positive.
The Health Department on Monday said at least 24,253 people have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 439 new confirmed cases since Sunday. The department said 6,127 of those cases are considered active, meaning they don’t include people who have died or recovered.
Five more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s fatalities to 292. The state’s hospitalizations rose by 12 to 337.
The true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.