Changes proposed for Missoula County COVID-19 guidelines

Missoula Health Department
MSO COVID Change 1280x720.png
Posted at 4:11 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 19:36:00-05

MISSOULA — The Missoula City-County Board of Health (MCCHD) will consider changing part of the existing COVID-19 restrictions later this week.

Officials will “consider adopting revisions to current COVID-19 mitigation requirements for restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos,” during a Thursday meeting, according to a news release.

Notable changes would eliminate the mandated closing time of 10 p.m. and limits on capacity, as long as capacity allows for 6-foot distancing.

However, customers wouldn't be able to stand at the bar or mingle with customers from other groups or tables. But, the number of people seated together will change from six to eight.

The revisions have been under consideration since early November after a group of about 70 bar and restaurant owners approached health officials to find a way to allow bars to remain open later at night.

Revive Missoula’s Bars and Restaurants noted that bars tend to conduct most of their business between 10 and midnight.

“We landed on the idea of creating a more structured environment as a solution to keeping these businesses open later,” MCCHD Public Information Officer Hayley Devlin noted in a news release.

MSO COVID Change 1280x720.png
The proposed revisions will be discussed during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.

“Before we could ask the Board of Health to make a change to the 10 p.m. closing time, Governor Bullock issued a statewide directive closing bars and restaurants at 10 p.m.,” Devlin stated.

Gov. Greg Gianforte rescinded most statewide COVID-19 mitigation requirements for businesses on Jan. 13. The governor’s directive, which went into effect on Jan. 15, recommends that businesses adhere to industry best practices and continue to follow COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

"Based on the current epidemiological data, MCCHD does not recommend that the Health Board relax any of the key COVID-19 mitigation requirements,” Devlin noted.

“Physical distancing, employee pre-shift health checks, reduced capacity, face covering use, and enhanced cleaning and sanitation are as important as ever for preventing COVID-19 from overwhelming our community,” Devlin added in Monday’s news release.

MCCHD is proposing changes that to the restaurant, bar, brewery, distillery and casino requirements to allow the establishments to remain open later. However, requirements to create a more structured environment than normally seen in a bar would be put in place.

The proposed rules require that everyone in the bar order and to be served at their seats to prevent mingling with other tables or crowding at the bar, according to MCCHD.

Public comment regarding the proposed changes will be accepted here until Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. There will also be a public comment period during the meeting, although those comments will be subject to a time limit.

Click here to view the proposed COVID-19 restriction changes.