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Bar owners, Reno City Council, Governor Sisolak trying to find common ground

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 2:09 AM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -

“Closed.”

It’s a sign many bar owners around Washoe County have had to put up as the Coronavirus continues to threaten the nation.

Ivan Fontana, owner of Death & Taxes, in Reno's Midtown neighborhood wonders why he had to shut his bar down twice.

"Once we were allowed to reopen we were abiding by the guidelines and yet the news hit us like a ton of bricks," he said. "It was like 'oh, we're closed again?'"

With no physical kitchen inside Death & Taxes, Fontana has been lumped together with all the other bar owners in Washoe County. His argument is simple. Once people are seated at half capacity and the masks come off inside any establishment, the virus won't know what is being served.

"At the end of the day we feel like if you're following the guidelines, what's the difference between a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a bar?" Fontana questioned.

On Wednesday, the Reno City Council held a meeting to help these businesses. One council member suggested closing a block for a weekend to hold outdoor gatherings. Reno’s Vice Mayor Devon Reese pitched another.

"Saying you can microwave quesadillas in the back, or you can hold food trucks out front, (is something we thought of)," Reese said in a Zoom call with other council members. "But just please make sure we are doing everything we can humanly possible to allow these businesses to survive," he said to his colleagues.

Fontana's experience in getting licensed to sell food has not been as straightforward as adding a microwave or calling in a food truck. Despite owning the building Taco Shop occupies right behind Death and Taxes, that doesn't allow him to reopen his bar, he said.

"There are places that buy already prepped items that are completely sealed and ready to go. You should be able to just open the container and serve somebody food without needing a grease interceptor, or doing any dishes at all. I think there's a little gray area," Fontana said.

It is a gray area that bar owners wish was more black and white. On Monday, Governor Steve Sisolak updated his focus from closing all alcohol-only establishments in Washoe, Clark, Elko, and Nye counties, to just penalizing the ones who aren't compliant.

"Targeting problematic areas will help protect the good actors," Governor Sisolak said during his press conference.

Governor Sisolak's new plan on stricter enforcement is expected to start this coming Monday.

To purchase to-go cocktails from Death & Taxes to support them during this pandemic, visit the link below:

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