Arkansas heading into first weekend with bars and clubs open again


WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — This is the first weekend that bars and clubs in Arkansas can be open again. Governor Asa Hutchinson allowed them to resume operations Tuesday.

John Woodfin is owner of The Backdour Club in West Memphis. He spent Friday afternoon stocking the bar and spreading out tables as he prepared to open for the first time in nearly three months.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” he said.

The pandemic has forced him to make a lot of changes. He’s offering masks at the door, providing hand sanitizer and posting signs about wearing masks all over the building.

“I’ve had a clean-up crew here twice in the past week sanitizing everything, going over the bathrooms and all the tables,” Woodfin said.

Like Woodfin’s club, bars have to follow certain rules now that they can be open again. For example, they have to operate at 33% seating capacity. Staff and customers have to wear masks when they’re not eating and drinking. Also, drinks in shared containers like a pitcher of beer are not allowed.

Woodfin knows he could have opened Tuesday, but he wanted to play it safe. 

“To be comfortable, I wanted more time to research and see exactly what the guidelines were,” he said.

Arkansas reported more than 200 new COVID-19 cases Friday. Medical experts, like Dr. Manoj Jain, want everyone to follow the safety measures in place, especially at bars.

“It is worrisome when people are drinking, and they may not be paying attention to the distance they might be,” Jain said, “At the end of the day, it’s going to be an individual responsibility.”

“We’re all adults and just common sense,” Woodfin said.

For Woodfin, 33% capacity means he can only have about 20 people inside at a time. He says that’s barely enough to pay the bills, but it’s better than being shut down.

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