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Shut down ‘indefinitely’ on Sept. 2, county bars allowed to reopen today

On Friday, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monongalia County’s bars would be allowed to open today with restrictions such as 50% capacity, proper social distancing, mandatory mask wearing when not eating or drinking and no dancing.

However, at Monday’s daily press conference — the day before bars are set to reopen — Justice did not offer any additional guidance.

“He is setting us up for failure without giving businesses adequate notice,” a manager for Baby Squirrels Saloon said. “Without knowing what the guidelines and rules will be for tomorrow, I am not sure of what’s changing besides food requirement.”

After being ordered to close for an extended period starting in July, bars were briefly reopened in September only to be closed “indefinitely” on Sept. 2.

Fat Daddy’s will open its doors on Thursday for Nashville Night Out. It will be only the second time the bar has opened since shutdowns first started,  owner Briana Wiesen said.

“It has been a very long seven months so we are eager to welcome everyone back safely,” she said. “We will be bringing in extra staff early to make sure any lines will be safely social distanced and masks worn at all times when not drinking.”

Fat Daddy’s was at the center of a social media firestorm that ended with the Sept. 2 “indefinite” shutdown. Pictures of patrons lined up 30 minutes before the bar opened while not practicing social distancing or wearing masks were posted online.

The line was on city property and “dissipated” before the Morgantown Police could respond, a city spokesperson said.

Some bars with a kitchen, such as Baby Squirrels, recently reopened as the guidelines allowed them to serve customers who ordered food — just like any other restaurant.

The bar manager said the hardest part of enforcing the guidelines is getting people to listen. Baby Squirrels operates on a one warning system before a customer is asked to leave.

“To our excited patrons we ask that everyone please follow the guidelines and let’s have a safe reopening,” Wiesen said.

Monongalia County Commission President Ed Hawkins said he’s hopeful  the county’s community will prove able to follow the rules “like everyone else can” so that the bars can remain open.

Hawkins said Justice has not consulted with him personally or with the commission as a whole on the reopening.

However, he doesn’t see that as a problem because the closures were Justice’s executive decision in the first place and that precludes him from consulting the commission on the issue.

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