In the short term, two downtown Lincoln bars and the Railyard commons were closed by local officials for 24 hours over what the city deemed violations of directed health measures.
Following the most severe step the city has taken against individual businesses as it grapples with a second wave of coronavirus on the rise, it’s worth taking a look at the bigger picture.
The longer-term damage could be far more devastating, with owners of many Lincoln restaurants and bars – which help fuel the culture and economy of our city – publicly stating they couldn’t survive a second crackdown as a result of increasing cases of COVID-19.
And that requires Lincolnites to recognize the threat of this virus seriously and treat it as such.
The pent-up desire for socialization and a sense of normalcy makes sense after a challenging four months. We get the appeal of dinner and drinks.
Social distancing created isolation. The pandemic cost thousands of Nebraskans their jobs and livelihoods. Diagnoses of this insidious virus, which has killed about 150,000 Americans, is on the rise here at a time when much of the rest of the developed world is returning cautiously to the status quo.
But carelessness in following directed health measures could very well jeopardize the existence of bars and restaurants, which suffered major losses when they were shuttered for months to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The night the order shuttered Longwell’s, Iguana’s Pub and the Railyard Commons, a reporter and photographer from the Journal Star surveyed the nightlife scene downtown. Some businesses took social distancing and masks seriously; others appeared packed, with few masks to be seen.
The sooner this health emergency is in check, the sooner we can resume something resembling normalcy. But the virus is still here, and the city’s action to close these establishments for 24 hours should warn Lincolnites that a spike in COVID-19 cases could do even further damage to these businesses.
And Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said Tuesday that shutting all the city's bars down was on the table, meaning Saturday's closures may not be the only ones.
For as much as has been made about reopening to benefit the economy, on-again, off-again closures caused by lax adherence to best practices to stop the virus only prolong and exacerbate the damage.
And the already battered food and drink industry can’t take much more uncertainty. To date, Lincoln has largely avoided the loss of iconic restaurants and bars that other cities have endured as a result of the pandemic – but that’s by no means guaranteed to continue.
If we care about these staples in our community as much as our words and actions indicate we do, then we must adhere to guidelines regarding masks, social distancing and the like.