The bar at the Nevis Municipal Liquor Store will open once safety measures approved by the city council are in place.

The decision was made at a special meeting Friday night and will be used in conjunction with strict enforcement of mask wearing and social distancing.

The council approved the purchase of up to two air purification units from the Pure Mist company, depending on their recommendation once they have been on site, and also authorized the company to spray down surface quarterly to provide extra protection from the COVID-19 virus.

“I’d like to make a motion to reopen the liquor store with the new policing guidelines once these air filtration systems are up and running and the spraying is completed,” council member Rich Johnson said. The motion passed unanimously.

The cost of each air purification machine is $1,350 and antimicrobial spray treatments done by the company at a cost of 10 cents per square foot, with a minimum charge of $250 per visit on an annual contract. According to a company representative, the spray coats surfaces with electrostatic technology and an antimicrobial solution that creates invisible spikes to kill microbes by penetrating their membranes.

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“I’d like to give it three or four days after the spray to make sure it is working 24/7 before we open,” said liquor store manager Erin Rhoades.

Council member Sue Gray said she checked out the devices online and according to the Centers for Disease Control they are good. Johnson agreed. “I looked pretty hard and saw some pretty positive things from the General Virus Network,” he said.

Policing mask wearing and other guidelines

The bar was closed by the city council Oct. 13 due to concerns about some patrons not wearing masks or social distancing as county rates of COVID-19 continued to rise. Rhoades brought the suggestions for making the bar safer so they could reopen to the Nov. 9 meeting.

Rhoades said all staff members at the municipal liquor store are committed to policing mask wearing and social distancing going forward, including part-time staff. “If they want a job, they will,” she said. “And I think the community will police it because they want it open so bad. I think they will be the best cops we have.”

The new standards that came out from the state this week will mean some additional changes will need to be implemented before opening as well.

“Bar stools will go away,” Rhoades said. “We will only seat tables. We were actually below capacity to begin with. We only had 37 chairs in the bar and we could have seated 50. So taking the bar seats out, we’ll be way below that. We’re doing everything we can for people not to spread the virus. We will ask people to leave if they’re not following the face mask mandate. They like that for tracing, too. It’s going to become the new norm, and I think we all know that and across the nation starting in January. The more we’re proactive the better it will be, and maybe we can set the standards for the rest of the bars by making these decisions to do it right and to do our best to keep people in our community from getting sick. And when we’re policing it, if people don’t show up together in their family group they can’t sit together. If it comes down to a reservation thing then that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

In accordance with the new state mandate, the bar will close at 10 p.m.

Council member Jeanne Thompson said mandates on gathering sizes may become even stricter. She also asked if opening the bar makes sense financially with the limited number of patrons the bar will be able to accommodate.

“We will get rid of the pool table to open up some more seating six feet apart,” Rhoades said. “Staff hours will be shorter, but they’re part time and will also be making their tipping income which they’re not making right now. They’ll still be doing better than they are doing now sitting at home. And we make more money on the bar side than we do on the off-sale.”

“Our muni is definitely a small community center and it’s needed by a lot of people for their socialization, their safety and their check-ins,” Thompson said.

Council seat open

The council also canvassed the election. Current council member Jeanne Thompson won the mayoral position with 124 votes. Sue Gray and Teresa Leshovsky retained seats on the council, with 116 and 107 votes respectively.

The council also approved a resolution that included accepting Thompson’s resignation from the council effective Jan. 11, 2021 and declared a vacancy on the council. Council members will talk to potential candidates for the council seat and interview them at the next council meeting which begins at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14. Anyone who would like a Zoom invitation to the meeting should contact Dawn Veit at city hall at 652-3866.