Starting Friday, Nov. 20, businesses that are licensed to sell and serve alcohol on their premises will be required to close by 11 p.m.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued this directive on Thursday, Nov. 19, which mandates that restaurants, bars and private clubs that have Alcoholic Beverage Control “on-premise” permits to shut down early. This directive was a recommendation from the recently established COVID-19 Winter Task Force.
“In an effort to reduce the spread of the virus as a result of prolonged social interaction in group settings, I am accepting the recommendation of the Winter COVID Task Force to require bars, restaurants, and clubs that sell alcohol for consumption in their establishment to close at 11 p.m.,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “This is a balanced approach that is limited and targeted as we work to reduce new COVID cases in our state.”
Establishments that are found to have violated this directive could be charged with a misdemeanor and receive fine between $100 and $500 and a prison term of up to one month.
This directive is set to remain in effect until Jan. 3, 2021.
Hutchinson’s new directive comes as the case count in Arkansas continues to rise. Earlier this week, the White House released a report that placed Arkansas in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases, indicating that the state had 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population.
In the report, White House officials recommended that the state reduce indoor capacity for restaurants in red zones to less than 25 percent and limiting bar hours until cases and positivity rates decrease tot the yellow zone.
While Hutchinson has appeared to adopt the hours recommendation, he told reporters that the state would not be reducing restaurant capacities.
“If you put that restrictions back down to one-third, you will be shutting down a whole bunch of businesses. They’re there by a thread. In some cases, they have managed with a two-thirds capacity; they are already unlimited. If you cut back that further, you’re going to be putting a lot of them underwater and you’re going to be putting a lot of people unemployed,” he said.