A guide to Anchorage’s new restrictions on bars, restaurants, entertainment facilities and gatherings

 A guide to Anchorage’s new restrictions on bars, restaurants, entertainment facilities and gatherings


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[You can read the full order here.]

The order takes effect at 8 a.m. Friday. Here are some important things to know about the city’s new requirements based on the order and information from the mayor’s office.

If you’re in Anchorage and in an indoor public space, you will still be required to wear a mask, and in some places like bars, restaurants and other establishments, there might be fewer people around. The new requirements largely focus on capacity limits at certain businesses.

Anchorage Economic Development Corp. CEO Bill Popp said he thinks that scaling back capacities, while tough on businesses, is important to help slow rising case numbers and stave off a total shutdown “that would be disastrous.”

Most businesses that you visit will ask you to provide your contact information when you arrive, with the exception of retail and grocery stores. Any business with sit-down service, such as a restaurant or a place that provides in-person appointments or services that lasts longer than 15 minutes — like a hair salon — is required to keep a visitor’s log. That’s so public health workers can contact you later if you were exposed to the coronavirus while visiting the business. Contact logs were already recommended and many businesses have been keeping them, but they are now required.

The restrictions go into effect Friday morning and “remain in effect until revoked,” according to the text of the order. The city looks at several factors — how much the virus is spreading in Anchorage, the rest of Alaska and the nation, as well as other metrics like health care capacity and availability of personal protective equipment — as they decide what restrictions are necessary, Anchorage officials said.

People sit at tables outside of Side Street Espresso on Thursday, July 23, 2020 in downtown Anchorage. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

It depends. If an outdoor gathering involves food or drinks, fewer than 50 people can be present. But there are some exceptions, including farmers markets and events with food trucks, where people can be 6 feet apart, and “on-site dining is discouraged,” the order states.

There’s an exception for an outdoor gathering that only involves people in their cars spaced out by 6 feet and there is nothing being passed between vehicles, like food or drinks.

Events and gatherings that take place inside are limited to 25 people.

“Right now, being indoors with people from other households is the riskiest place residents can be for catching and spreading COVID-19,” the city’s order says.

The city is defining gatherings as places where there’s mingling in a group, like parties, weddings and barbecues, said Carolyn Hall, a spokeswoman for the municipality. That type of mingling can lead to transmission of the illness, she said.

These businesses were previously able to operate at full capacity as long as a 6-foot distance could be kept between customers and between staff, meaning tables and bar stools had to be spaced apart. They will now have to limit the number of people allowed inside — including staff members — to just a quarter of how many people could legally be inside according to fire and building codes. The new 25% capacity rule also applies to their outdoor spaces, such as patios.

A customer picks up takeout from Humpy’s on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced new capacity restrictions for bar, restaurants, gyms and other gatherings beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday. (Bill Roth / ADN)

It will be different for each place, and it depends on the size of the indoor space. Each restaurant and brewery will now be allowed to fill their space to just half the capacity limit allowed by fire and building codes. You should be able to find out what that number is because these businesses are required to publicly post their new capacity.

You might have to wait longer for a table at your favorite restaurant. Tables must now be spaced 10 feet apart, meaning there may be fewer tables available. Under the previous order, tables could be spaced just 6 feet apart.

The new capacity restrictions don’t include personal care services, and those businesses should “proceed as they have been proceeding,” Berkowitz said during a press briefing Wednesday.

Those services have requirements in place from previous orders. Waiting areas must be closed, customers must have access to hand sanitizer or a place to wash their hands and workstations must be kept 6 feet apart.

Gyms are still allowed to be open, but there are some new limitations. Indoor gyms are limited to half of their building’s occupancy, and they have to post that capacity number publicly, under the new order.

Similarly, movie theaters and other types of entertainment and indoor recreation spots are also limited to half of their building’s occupancy. Many movie theaters in Anchorage are still closed, however.

Retail businesses are not affected by the capacity restrictions in the new order, according to the mayor’s office.

Religious services aren’t subject to the new capacity restrictions in the order, but organizations will need to keep visitor logs if members of the public are there for a sit-down services that last 15 minutes or more, Hall said.

There are also prior requirements for religious services, like 6 feet of distance between people of different households, and 10 feet of distance when people are singing.

The new order also includes more requirements for hotels.

Management has to “regularly” inform people who work there, as well as the state and local health departments, how they’re housing people who are in quarantine or isolation because of travel, an exposure to the illness or a positive test result. The requirement says that names of people with COVID-19 must be kept confidential by employees. Hotels are also required to provide personal protective gear and enough cleaning supplies to their employees.

The new order also requires that businesses tell their employees as well as state and local health departments about “known or probable” exposures of COVID-19 there. They also have to help health officials inform customers or clients about a known exposure.

Child care facilities are still regulated under the previous order. Groups of children are limited to 20 and they must be kept in consistent, “static” groups to avoid mixing. Staff must follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when moving between groups, clean and sanitize surfaces regularly and perform temperature checks on all children when they arrive.

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