By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The impact of restrictions on how late bars could stay open in Wyoming was tempered by the state’s willingness to find a way to help bar owners stay in business, according to the executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Dealers Association.
Mike Moser on Friday praised state officials for extending offers of assistance in December when Gov. Mark Gordon ordered restaurants and bars to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“God only knows how many jobs and businesses were saved by intervention from those agencies,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
The restrictions on operating hours were included in public health orders issued on Dec. 7 by Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, and were allowed to expire on Saturday.
The business hour restrictions were designed to avoid situations where many people would congregate in tight spaces, increasing the chances of transmission of the virus.
The order put a burden on an industry already suffering because people have been hesitant to go out in public because of the pandemic, Moser said.
However, he added Gordon, Harrist, the Wyoming Business Council and other agencies were enthusiastic about working with members of the industry to figure out how federal coronavirus funds could be used to help keep the businesses afloat.
“This is the only state I know of in the country where the governor, the Health Department and the Business Council, their … question was ‘How do we keep these businesses whole,’” he said. “Stuff like that is why I love Wyoming.”
Moser said more than 160 businesses applied for the assistance.
He added that while the restrictions on hours were inconvenient, they were a necessary step to protect the state against a broader spread of coronavirus.
“I’m not a health care professional, but I know this pandemic is serious and I don’t want business to shut down again,” he said. “If we have to take a little pain to stay open, then this is a small step.”
Other restrictions put in place in December, such as a mandate for mask use in public spaces when social distancing is not possible and a limit on public gatherings to 10 people or fewer, remain in place until at least Jan. 25.