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Mayor’s emergency resolution would close Burlington bars early

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2020 at 8:55 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - There are new proposed rules for Burlington bars as the city focuses on preventing the spread of the coronavirus through the college community.

Mayor Miro Weinberger on Tuesday announced he’s proposing all bars stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. He called for a special Burlington City Council meeting this Thursday to approve an emergency resolution that would go into effect immediately.

When it comes to enforcement, Weinberger says he has asked the Vt. Department of Liquor and Lottery to step up their enforcement of Gov. Phil Scott’s rules for bars, such as limiting indoor operations to 50% capacity and prohibiting seating at the bar. He also says Burlington Police will be responsible for responding to complaints and writing tickets.

Police will also be enforcing two other new regulations on the maximum size of gatherings. No more than 25 can be gathered at Burlington residences and indoor gatherings are limited to 10 to 15. Officers will stop by neighborhoods to inform residents of these changes.

Weinberger says he hopes these regulations don’t have to be in place for too long.

”It is my hope that they are short-lived. If virus transmission levels in Burlington remain very low after both the public schools have opened and we’ve gotten through this transition of the colleges reopening and getting into the rhythm of their new testing rhythm, we will happily reevaluate the necessity of their regulations and consider lifting them,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.

The mayor says they will reassess these regulations in late September and October.

WCAX News spoke with a few bar owners and employees shortly after Weinberger announced the regulations. None of them wanted to go on camera but some say they feel the rule will cost them a lot of business that they feel isn’t necessary to lose. They believe college students will party and drink regardless of whether the bars are open and they would rather they spend their money at local businesses that have been struggling since the pandemic began than somewhere else.

Cory Dalsimer, a UVM student and an employee at Mad River Distillery, says he understands those worries, but he feels the health benefits of the 10 p.m. rule will outweigh the financial consequences.

“The number one priority for everyone, regardless of your income, is to keep the people safe and to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Burlington. So, I think regardless of where you work or even your financial situation, that’s people’s top priority,” Dalsimer said.

Many people in Burlington question whether shutting down bars early will prevent students from partying and holding large gatherings.

Mark Aurelio thinks they’ll just adjust their plans and gather somewhere else. “I think that the kids will go out earlier or cluster in their respective homes later,” he said. “If you tell me I can’t drink past 10, I’ll drink earlier.”

Allan Morton agrees but still applauds Weinberger’s effort to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

“I think it’s a great idea. I know the kids are going to get here and we’ve already seen it in other parts of the country that kids are coming back to college and they’re going into bars and they’re not acting responsibly and COVID-19 is spreading,” said Morton.

Burlington Police say the penalty for bars that are out of compliance with the rule depends on what the council decides at their special meeting on Thursday. Police say if the penalty falls along the lines of the existing COVID-19 guidelines, it will be $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for the third.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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