How has Burlington’s 11 p.m. alcohol sales cutoff time affected the spread of COVID, bars?

Burlington City Council is set to revisit a resolution that limits the sale of alcohol and gathering sizes Monday, the last day of an order intended to curb bar crawls and house parties during the pandemic.

The expiring resolution, passed by the City Council on Aug. 20, required downtown bars and restaurants that sell alcohol to set their last call at 11 p.m. instead of 2 a.m.

The emergency order was intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Burlington with the return of college students into the area. Additional measures included in the resolution was the limitation to outdoor and indoor gathering sizes to 25 and 10 people, respectively. 

For more: Burlington council passes COVID-19 restrictions on alcohol sales, gatherings

The City Council reconvenes Monday to discuss the effectiveness of the gathering size and alcohol sale limits. A resolution sponsored by Councilor Chip Mason (D – Ward 5) proposes extending the emergency order until Oct. 5.

In the wake of the order, downtown bars and restaurants told the Free Press that they immediately felt its impact. Two days after the law’s enactment, Akes’ Place owner Josh Markle said his establishment had already taken significant financial hits.

“The ability to not serve past 11 is heartbreaking,” Markle said at the time, who saw half of what they normally rake in for alcohol sales on Thursday and Friday nights.

COVID-19 in Vermont: Burlington bars question city measures on alcohol sales

A report from the city’s COVID-19 Analytics team, provided to Mayor Miro Weinberger and the City Council ahead of its meeting, recommends the city extend the order to Oct. 5.

“…these limitations should be understood as part of a broader set of interventions put in place by the City to reduce both the probability and velocity of coronavirus transmission in Burlington as students return and our local school system begins to re-open,” the Sept. 10 report reads.

In acknowledging the county and state’s low prevalence of cases, the report highlighted that both the University of Vermont and Champlain College have seen 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its student populace since Aug. 7.

Noise complaints and calls to the Burlington Police Department in areas near both colleges appear to be lower than previous years, according to the department.

The report does acknowledge, however, that the short time period during which the emergency order was enacted did not provide the city an accurate data reflection of the law’s impact. 

Contact Ethan Bakuli at (802) 556-1804 or ebakuli@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BakuliEthan.

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