Burlington restaurants, bars to close for at least 24 hours

Published: Mar. 16, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT
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Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is ordering all bars and dine-in restaurants to close on Tuesday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Weinberger announced the new directive at a press conference on Monday afternoon as he declared a state of emergency in the Queen City.

All restaurants are mandated to close at 6 a.m. on Tuesday for at least 24 hours. Weinberger says it’s possible he will extend the mandate until April 6.

Restaurant and bar employees say they don’t know how they’re going to make ends meet without a paycheck for at least two weeks.

"I work check to check, tip by tip, so just stuff like this, two weeks is a lot to be out of work,” said Miya Drake, a server at Ruben James.

Drake is worried about paying her bills.

“Being a young person paying car, student loans, rent, all that. I got a lot to pay for,” Drake said.

Drake says she was supposed to work a double shift on St. Patrick’s Day, the day the mandate goes into effect.

“So that's 12 hours’ worth of pay I won't be getting. Even if people weren't coming in, I'd still get 12 hours of minimum,” she said.

Caroline Quinn, the head bartender at Ken’s Pizza & Pub, is in the same predicament.

"It's interesting being a tipped employee that gets paid restaurant wage to find out how that will work with unemployment and whatnot,” Quinn said. “It's definitely going to take a toll. Everybody that works here. People that own it.”

Quinn says her job at Ken’s Pizza & Pubs is her only source of income. She expects the next few weeks to be stressful, but she’s trying to keep a level head and not panic.

“Try to pick up the pieces and figure out what the next step is without very much warning on anything,” she said. “Just kind of staying one step ahead.”

Mayor Weinberger says restaurants are still allowed to serve customers through delivery and takeout. A lot of restaurants are resorting to that option and have signs on the doors telling customers they are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 but are offering delivery.

WCAX News asked Weinberger what type of economic impact this is expected to have on Church Street overall. He said he doesn’t know yet and that is being evaluated by the Community Economic Development Office.

As part of the emergency declaration, Weinberger is also restricting access to all city buildings starting Wednesday, suspending in-person programming of the Fletcher Free Library, Burlington City Arts, and the Parks, Recreation and Water Department, and urging all private property owners to commit to voluntarily suspend evictions of people who can provide documentation of COVID-related economic hardships.

Weinberger says the city intends to continue essential services throughout the course of the pandemic. Those include water, electricity, emergency response, maintenance of streets and sidewalks, and recycling pickup.