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Montana bars prepare to re-open with enhanced safety protocols

Posted at 7:50 AM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 09:50:04-04

GREAT FALLS — Gov. Steve Bullock required all Montana restaurants and bars to stop all sit-in services on March 20 due to COVID-19 concerns.

But as of May 4, they can reopen and a pair of Great Falls bars have come up with ways to abide by social distancing guidelines while serving their customers.

Do Bar manager Lexi Jones said her staff made many adjustments to their facility and protocols to ensure their environment was safe, like rearranging tables and chairs and moving their casino to a larger room.

They also adopted new sanitation practices, including:

  • use of plastic cups only (new cup for each drink)
  • plastic cups disposed of directly after use
  • bleach sanitizer used to clean tables and chairs anytime customers leave table
  • gloves made available to all customers
  • hand sanitizer distributed after every drink order
  • pool tables taken out of use

Cowboys Bar manager Dianna Olson will assign her four employees on staff each night to separate tasks to ensure sanitation and social distancing are maintained as well. One employee will stand at the door to monitor the number of guests and check the customers’ IDs and temperatures. Another employee will sanitize slot machines after each use and offer users hand sanitizer. The two other workers will take orders and make drinks.

Guests at both bars will also be required to stay seated during their stay at the bar. Instead of approaching the bar for a drink, servers will come to tables to take drink orders. Guests at both venues will have access to protective gloves, will drink from plastic cups, and must refrain from using the pool tables.

Both facilities will also have to operate at half capacity - around 80 people for Cowboys Bar and over 200 for The Do Bar. That means customers will have to wait until others leave to enter if the bar is full.

“When all the seats are full, we’re gonna put up a sign to say ‘we’re full. You have to wait to be seated.’ If they want to wait outside, more power to ‘em. If they don’t, they can call back later and see if there’s open seats,” Olson said.

Jones echoed Olson’s comment but said since their facility is larger, she believes it will be easier to accommodate customers.

“We only have seats for the amount of people that we’re allowed to have and nobody’s allowed to stand so staff will be guiding people to wait if necessary. But the good thing is, we’re a rather large bar so we have seating with the half capacity for over 200 people. So, we’re hoping that will be able to get us full and still be able to have a lot of people in here - safely,” Jones said.

The Do Bar has a patio area and casino to fit guests if there is no longer room in the main bar area.

“We have set up tables out there and they’re following the same guidelines - six feet apart, no more than six people at the tables,” Jones said. “And when there’s a bartender out there, they will be maintaining the rules -- nobody can stand at the bar. nobody can stand around the fire pits. There will only be a couple chairs around the firepits to maintain the same rules. So, we were able to use that kind of as fill-over space for people to sit and enjoy and still come in.”

Guests at both bars will be allowed to mingle and may need to share tables if necessary, in order to accommodate the number of guests.

“We will ask people if they’re comfortable sitting with other people so that way we can utilize more space. But I do think that people are gonna be coming out on a Friday or Saturday night with a group of five or six friends so they can kinda get that chance to socialize with their friends,” Jones said.

For those concerned about casino safety, the managers explained that staff members will wipe down machines continuously after use and provide sanitizer to those who use the machines.

Both managers agreed that since this is a new experience, they will be learning and adapting their practices as they go.

“We’re just gonna play it by ear. I’m not really sure how this is all gonna work out. We’ve never been in this position before,” Olson said.

“It'll be a learning curve. We’ll see how the process goes as we open this week and try to jump any hurdles as they come,” Jones said.

Click hereto view the details of Gov. Steve Bullock's "Re-opening The Big Sky" plan.

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