The Sedgwick County Commission has reinstated part of an emergency public health order, two days after removing it.
At a special meeting on Friday, commissioners put back in place a requirement that restaurants that sell alcohol must close at midnight. That was part of the original order issued earlier this week by county health officer Dr. Garold Minns, but commissioners removed the restriction at their meeting Wednesday.
In that same order, Minns ordered all bars and nightclubs closed through Aug. 21, which affects 74 businesses. But most of the bars in Wichita, more than 350, don’t fall into that category because they generate 30 percent of their revenue selling food. That includes many of the bars in the Old Town entertainment district.
Mayor Brandon Whipple had criticized the county’s move, saying on Twitter it made the order "almost useless." He said many restaurants serve food earlier in the day and become essentially nightclubs later in the evening.
It seems the County Commission gut Dr. Minns #Covid19 public health order by limiting it to bars earning "less than 30%" of income from food, making it almost useless
The majority of bars, especially in old town, who we received most our violation complaints remain open as usual pic.twitter.com/1tXQ4572a6
— Dr. Brandon Whipple (@BWhippleKS) July 22, 2020
Minns has linked a rise in COVID-19 cases, especially among younger people, to activity at bars and nightclubs. The county has seen a significant increase in cases over the past few weeks, with the number of active cases now topping 2,000.
Before the county’s move Friday, Whipple said he was exploring a city ordinance that would set a curfew for liquor sales.
Commissioners Pete Meitzner, Lacy Cruse and David Dennis supported the move, which takes effect Saturday.
Meitzner said reinstating the order is about taking care of the community.
“We are trying to take care the best we can of our area, based on our hospitals, our economy, based on the data that is available today,” he said.
Jim Howell and Michael O'Donnell voted no, saying the order punishes businesses that are following the rules.
"My heart does break for these people because so many are good actors, and we’re punishing the good actors," O’Donnell said. "This vote today is going to put a lot of people in our community out of work."