Last week, Vermont’s bars, clubs, legions and auxiliaries were permitted to reopen with the same guidelines that restaurants must follow. Those guidelines call for plexiglass barriers between bartenders and patrons as well as adequate social distancing and tracking of patrons for contact tracing should that be necessary.
Reaching out to local businesses, The Valley Reporter realized that there are no actual bars anymore in The Valley. All places that serve alcohol also serve food -- even Lawsons Finest and Collaborative Brewing, both in Waitsfield.
Then, what does the state’s lifting of restrictions on bars mean for local businesses? Not too much.
Ryan Donnelly at Hostel Tevere in Warren has been offering takeout food since the onset of the pandemic with a few fits and starts. He had outdoor dining under a tent last year, starting in June (when he also began his professional cooking career) and will offer it again this year.
But he never opened the bar in his business. Rather than install plexiglass panels between the bartender and patrons, he lined the bar with plants and served drinks at appropriately-spaced tables in the bar, dining room and under the tent.
“That made it easier for us because we didn’t have to police people standing around the bar or sitting at the bar,” Donnelly said.
He expects people will still want to be outside to the extent possible this summer and is looking forward to being able to reopen the lodging portion of his business. Hostel Tevere will close on April 19 and reopen around May 13, Donnelly said. He also noted that he’ll be actively seeking staff prior to reopening and is hoping to be able to be open seven days a week when he does.
Ana Dan, owner of The Hyde Away and Sage in Waitsfield, said that the state allowing bars to reopen hadn’t affected either of her businesses because they’d already been open, operating as restaurants under current state guidelines. They have plexiglass between bartenders and patrons and appropriately-distanced seating.
“We saw no change in terms of the state’s revised guidelines. The only change we’ve seen is all these older people who are now fully vaccinated coming out to eat in the restaurants, which is great!” she said.
At Sugarbush, there are no proper bars and every place that serves alcohol also serves food, so the change in the state guidelines did not impact operations there either. Sugarbush communications manager John Bleh said that the resort never opened up its bar seating.
John Morse, owner of Localfolk Smokehouse in Waitsfield, did not return a phone call seeking comment on his plans to reopen given the new state guidelines. His business has been closed since last March.