Long lines outside Memphis entertainment center raise social distancing questions


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A viewer snapped pictures of a line stretched outside Incredible Pizza Co. on Germantown Parkway this weekend with dozens of people waiting to get in, some wearing masks and others not.

Now the owner of a downtown bar forced to shut down due to social distancing rules during the pandemic is raising questions of how another eatery is allowed to have so many customers lined up.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Jeanette Comans, who owns Blind Bear Speakeasy downtown, which county leaders forced her to close last month.

An Incredible Pizza spokesperson didn’t comment on the picture of the long lines, but said the company didn’t receive any complaints.

“We were very busy this weekend,” said Andy Thiem, executive vice president of marking at America’s Incredible Pizza Company.

Thiem said the lines formed because they are only allowing a certain amount of customers in at a time due to COVID-19.

“We do have social distance markers on the sidewalk, but as you well know, there are stories you’ve done, a lot of people think those are just personal guidelines. People have to be willing to participate.”

The health department said it did not receive any complaints about Incredible Pizza this weekend.

Memphis Code Enforcement, however, said it did get a call referencing “the number of people inside the building and customers not wearing masks while waiting in line.” It’s now investigating to ensure compliance.

Comans said she sells food and drinks at Blind Bear, but because 50% or more of her sales come from alcohol, the county lumped her into the same category as a stand-alone bar.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris has said in a statement to WREG that “bar businesses are social settings and social distance is one of our strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

“Why can’t I provide food in very isolated, six-feet-apart tables?” Comans asked. “People stay at their own table, and everyone wears masks to come in.”

She wants the same safety measures that other establishments offering social settings have been able to implement.

Incredible Pizza said inside, they’re following all health department and CDC guidelines, like requiring social distancing and face coverings.

“We are mindful when we try to remind everybody that we are trying to be happy and safe inside Incredible Pizza,” Thiem said.

Incredible Pizza has markers outside the establishment where people should stand while waiting in line. Staff said people have to be willing to participate.

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