This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As COVID cases drop, the Shelby County Health Department is lifting restrictions on restaurants and bars, allowing extended hours and eliminating capacity restrictions. 

Social distancing will still be required, but restaurant owners are excited about Health Directive 18, which goes in effect at midnight Feb. 20.

Lunch time at Westy’s in the Pinch District looked busy Thursday, given the social distancing, but things are expected to get even better when the bar here reopens for seating.

“Some of our bartenders, actually quite a few of them, have been here 20 years, 25 years, and they go, ‘Alright!’” said owner Jake Schorr.

Shelby County Health Department lifts more restrictions on businesses

The new directive allows Schorr to have six people at Westy’s small bar, with two people together, and six feet of space in between groups. It also allows restaurants to stay open until midnight, as long as social distancing remains in place.

At Rizzo’s on South Main, owner and chef Michael Patrick is getting his restaurant ready to open by the weekend. He’s happy to see the restrictions on capacity lifted.

“We were at 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent. Now, there’s no restrictions on how many people you can have in here, but with six feet of social distancing I’m still at 50 percent occupancy,” Patrick said.

Staff there will still check temperatures, require masks and offer hand sanitizer, but he’s especially pleased to put his bar space back to good use.

“It gives me two more dining options in the bar area, which we’re happy to have,” Patrick said. “When you look at how we look at things, a bar stool is a hundred dollars a day.”

The health department issued the directive because “our community has experienced reduced transmission of the virus for a period of greater than 14 days.”