Shelby County Health Department defends decision to reopen bars

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department’s decision to allow limited service restaurants, namely bars, to reopen got some criticism, and during Thursday’s COVID task force briefing, the health officer defended the decision.

“These types of safety measures, if applied by any establishment whether you’re full service or limited service restaurant, place the risk of getting the virus at the same level,” said Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph.

They may not pose a greater risk, but the health department makes it clear they must abide by the rules.  The rules include closing at 10pm, making patrons mask up, no standing or sitting at the bar, placing tables 6 feet apart and setting music levels low enough so customers don’t have to scream.

The costs for violating are high.

“Not only may we close you, you may also lose your permit, your license for alcohol with that ABC,” Randolph said.

CARES ACT federal funding allowed the health department to expand its enforcement team. Memphis Police and Shelby County deputies will assist in spotting those not following guidelines. They’re also depending on the public to report violators.

“I think there’s a misperception that we are not out in the evening or the weekend, but we actually are out. We have teams out every weekend well into the late hours.,” said Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.

Making sure the rules are followed puts everyone another step closer to fully reopening.

“The bottom line is that if you do right you can do more,” Randolph said.

You can report a violation by calling (901)-222-MASK, the Mayors Action Centers at (901) 222-2300 or sending an email to the Shelby County Health Department at

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