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Vermont bars, restaurants close on St. Patrick's Day

(WCAX)
Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 4:07 PM EDT
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Restaurants and bars in Vermont are officially shut down. The governor ordered them to close by Tuesday afternoon. Our Ike Bendavid visited downtown Burlington on what would normally be a busy St. Patrick's Day and found bar and restaurant owners worried about their businesses.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: Have you seen anything like this?

Jeanne Lieberman/Burlington: Never.

In downtown Burlington on Tuesday, classical music played to almost no one. There were few people out as restaurants and businesses shut down over concerns about the coronavirus.

"It is very... it's eerie. That's all I could say is it's eerie," Lieberman said.

But some did their best to keep their spirits up, like Ben Luna who dressed in green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Ike Bendavid: Is it weird at all-- all the bars are closed? What's going through your mind?

Ben Luna/Burlington: What's going through my mind is trying to be a positive force in this community in this state and in this world.

But the reality is, for now, the lights are off.

"It's a difficult time for everyone," said Sam Tolstoi of Manhattan Pizza.

Before the mandatory 2 p.m. shutdown for all Vermont restaurants and bars, the chairs sat empty and the kitchen was closed at Manhattan Pizza, an odd sight for a college town bar on St Patrick's Day.

"This is normally a very busy day for us," Tolstoi said.

Gov. Phil Scott issued the order Monday afternoon. Right now, it's set to stay in place through April 6, leaving a lot of questions for businesses and their employees.

"We are just doing what we can, trying to put the pieces together, working with our employees and figuring out different solutions for their future and our future," Tolstoi said.

Under the governor's order, restaurants will be allowed to do takeout and delivery services only, something Manhattan Pizza is looking into. So is Kountry Kart Deli.

"We came out here to get a meal from KKD's and try to support their restaurant," said Valeria Pinzon of Burlington.

Pinzon says she is looking to support city restaurants as long as they stay open.

"Potentially ordering out, people that do takeout or delivery," she said.

And in the meantime, find a creative way to spread Irish cheer.

"We are in this together," Luna said. "We are going to endure this together."

Manhattan Pizza says they are looking to also add a delivery service to help employees and their business. They also point to a rise in gift cards from members of the community as a way of helping out.

So what if a restaurant disobeys the governor and doesn't close down? We asked Burlington Police about that and they say they are confident that businesses will follow the orders as good neighbors. But if needed, they would work with the permitting team and fire marshal to address the situation in a lawful, safe and fair way.

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