Gov. Kevin Stitt dropped restrictions on bars and restaurants Wednesday, one day after a judge hammered the state in a written order for a lack of evidence that the restrictions effectively slowed the spread of COVID-19 in the first place.
In an amended executive order, Stitt removed the requirement for bars and restaurants to close in person service at 11 p.m. These restrictions originally took effect Nov. 19, but Stitt and the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission lost the ability to enforce the order in December after a judge granted six bar owners a restraining order against the governor and his curfew.
The restraining order applied to the six bar owners in the case, but the ABLE Commission said it would not enforce the governor's curfew on any establishment until the case was resolved.
On Tuesday, Oklahoma District Court Judge Susan Stallings ordered the temporary restraining order against the curfew would remain in effect until the case could be heard again in court in July. She repeatedly mentioned the state's lack of evidence showing that COVID spread more in bars and restaurants past 11 than anywhere else.
“The defendants (Stitt, the ABLE Commission) provided no more evidence that the increase in COVID-19 infections was coming exclusively from bars open past 11 p.m., as compared to casinos and/or all-night diners,” Stallings said in her order. “All involve the same behavior: being indoors, without sufficient distancing, and not wearing masks.
"It is imperative that the court have additional credible evidence to determine what impact bars, in comparison to other establishments that remain open after 11 p.m., have on the spread of COVID-19, before determining whether permanent injunctive relief is warranted in this matter,” Stallings wrote.
The requirement for bars and restaurants to space groups 6 feet apart or separate tables with properly sanitized glass or plexiglass remains in the renewed executive order. "As we continue to adapt to the ever-changing environment of COVID-19, we are maintaining our State of Emergency to ensure the State and our frontline health care workers can continue to effectively respond to the pandemic while also allowing our businesses to remain open safely," Stitt said in a written statement. "The Oklahoma State Department of Health continues to lead the way in vaccine distribution as we are now ranked No. 7 among all states by the CDC in vaccines administered per capita. We have made great strides in the right direction and I continue to ask all Oklahomans to help slow the spread of the virus by taking proper safety precautions, including wearing a mask and social distancing."
As far as what we think at the OKC Real Estate Show, i think the staff opinion is leaning towards people that socially drink that go to a bar that is forced to close at 11pm just results in people having more house parties that have little or no precautions in place. With a large portion of retail and industry workers getting off at 9 or 10 pm is nearly impossible to enjoy your evening when the restaurant is forced to close at 11pm. Allowing restaurants and business to stay open past 11pm gives a safe alternative to the unregulated house parties that would otherwise go on. I want to hear what you have to say about this! leave your comments below.