Springfield bars prepare for surge of college students with school starting back up

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Springfield-Greene County Health Director Clay Goddard said Thursday morning that COVID-19 cases rising for young people in Springfield.

This comes at a time when thousands of college students return to campus. And what do some college students of the legal age like to do? Go to bars. So, how are bars going to control crowds during this new normal?

That same question worries owner Grady Wisdom at The Flea.

“We know there’s a lot of places that haven’t been doing the occupancy guidelines and not being as strict on the masking,” Wisdom said. “We’ve been very strict on the masking inside. It’s a delicate balance. Trying to keep our business alive while being responsible. We want to be part of the narrative instead of reacting to it.”

At The Flea, masks must be worn inside unless you’re seated, a face covering will be given to you if you don’t have one, cubicle walls are also in between each table to allow for more distancing. Outside, people can drink six feet apart on the patio.

Right next door is Bair’s Sports Grill. General manager Dylan Allen says college students are the lifeblood of his business. At Bair’s, every other table is blocked off, and you can’t sit at the bar. People are asked to wear a mask when they enter the front door until they have food or drink on their table. Allen says his staff isn’t taking the guidelines lightly.

“For us being a local restaurant we like to show that we care quite a bit for our community,” Allen said. “We want to make sure that everybody is as safe as possible, and we are following these guidelines to a tee.”

Allen says his restaurant continually communicates with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. He asks that anyone who feels they are even slightly sick to stay home.

“If we notice somebody’s feeling ill, we do have the right to turn them away,” Allen said. “If they were to seat more than 10 to a table, we won’t let them sit together. If they were to break a guideline, we would ask them to leave.”

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