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Memphis tourism, restaurant industries react to latest health department restrictions

Shelby County Health Department says bars will close and restaurants will see earlier close times.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Tuesday the Shelby County Health Department returned to restrictions on bars and restaurants amid rising COVID-19 cases. The new health directive limits hours of dining businesses and shuts down most bars until further notice.

Jock Marx, the regional manager at Tin Roof, knows about providing his customers a memorable time while out on Beale Street. But a good time out is looking different these days.

“The earlier close time will definitely affect our sales,” said Marx. “It’s tough the kitchen has to shut usually far ahead of the restaurant.”

Effective Wednesday at midnight, bars which primarily serve adults will close indefinitely according to the director of the Shelby County Health Department. Come Thursday, restaurants have to close by 10 p.m., which impacts employees.

“They just lose straight hours, which is hourly pay and then the servers and the bartenders, we just won’t need as many of them obviously,” said Marx.

Marx says the restrictions this time around seem more fair to all restaurants on closing times.

RELATED: New Shelby County health directive shuts down most bars indefinitely, cuts operating hours at restaurants

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“You could be on Beale Street until a certain time and then go one block over because we had to close and you could go do your thing at other bars,” he said.

Meanwhile Kevin Kane, the president and CEO of Memphis Tourism, said visits to attractions and stays at hotels are expected to remain steady.

“Surprisingly hotel occupancy is leading the region,” said Kane. “Our restaurants are doing better than a lot of restaurants in the south. Even our attractions are getting some pretty good traffic from out of towners.”

Kane said Memphis Tourism has worked with the health department each step of the way.

“If they think we need to dial them back we are all for it,” commented Kane. “Whatever they need us to do as an industry we will do it.”

Dr. Alisa Haushalter said in a briefing if coronavirus cases continue to climb, the health department will consider an in-person dining ban, plus restaurant and gym capacity.

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