Last month, the Nevis City Council voted to close the municipal liquor store bar and re-evaluate monthly, which they did at Monday night’s council meeting. Three employees are currently working in the off-sale facility with the remainder of the staff laid off.
Liquor store manager Erin Rhoades said they’ve been working on solutions to make it safer.
“We just want to open these doors safely,” she said. “We are prepared to mandate wearing masks and ask people to leave if they won’t.”
“We’ve looked at the numbers again daily by zip code as well as what’s happened in the last couple of weeks,” mayor-elect Jeanne Thompson said. “Our numbers are still growing. They’re still high in our area. Recognizing when we don’t have the bar open we’re losing resources. But with numbers growing, it’s still not time to open those doors until we have those plans in place. Numbers go down, we look at these systems, those types of things.”
Council member Teresa Leshovsky agreed. “For a small community, it’s scary for the numbers to be high in Nevis. It’s affected not only the school and the muni but other businesses. I agree on keeping it closed until it’s safe.”
“As long as the numbers continue to go up as fast as they are going, I can’t see opening the bar again,” council member Sue Gray said. “But if we can have a safe alternative like what was presented tonight, that would be wonderful.”
“The numbers are so high right now that we want to make sure we’re protecting our staff as well as our patrons,” council member Rich Johnson concluded. “If this system does what we think it could do, we could possibly open very soon.”
“This isn’t the only key to opening,” Thompson said. “It’s also the social distancing, mask wearing, all the other things that need to go in place with that.”
“We have met about this,” Rhoades said. “Staff have met and we are prepared to forcibly police it (mask wearing). If we can get this technology here soon, we will hang signs saying you will be asked to leave if you’re not wearing a mask. It’s just what we have to do if that will keep our doors open. People might not like it, but then they won’t be able to come in.”
Resident Robert Rizzi questioned why the research into keeping the municipal liquor store open wasn’t done before it was shut down, and asked how closing the bar would impact the city budget and resident property taxes.
Thompson said the council’s decision to close the bar was primarily based on safety because it is a city-owned facility. She added a portion of what the liquor store makes offsets taxes, but there will be enough in the fund for that portion, just not for extra projects at the facility down the road.
“We had a healthy balance,” she said.
Rizzi said people in the community are going to other places and wondered why those businesses are not being policed.
“The city’s responsibility is for city businesses and staff, not private businesses,” Thompson said.