Nashville has lifted its blanket capacity restrictions on restaurants and bars. No longer are they limited to 50% seating. Rather, they’re capped at 100 people per floor, no matter their square footage so long as social distancing can be achieved.
But Dr. Michael Caldwell, director of Metro Public Health Department, argues that the city’s effect on case counts is limited by neighboring counties, which have virtually no special pandemic restrictions on businesses except for recently resumed mask requirements.
“If we are so different than the rest of our region, then the impact we can have by having severe restrictions is really limited,” he says.
Caldwell characterizes the rollback as a minor change. Restaurants and bars will still have to close at 11 p.m. under the new order, and individual parties remain limited to eight people. Restaurants are still supposed to spread out tables or separate them with partitions.
But Caldwell acknowledges that the city has changed its philosophy from trying to crush the virus to just slowing the spread with the least burdensome restrictions.
“Early on, we were hoping to completely eliminate the virus, and the restrictions were geared to us eliminating it,” he tells WPLN News. “When it became apparent that there was no cohesive national strategy, and even statewide, there’s disparities in how restrictions were being rolled out … Nashville wanted to do as much as we could but not harm the community unnecessarily.”
On Monday, the city also increased capacity limits for salons to 75%. Caldwell says that’s mostly because how few outbreaks have been traced back to salons.
Some European countries, including Germany, have been closing restaurants and bars again in an effort to ensure schools can remain open. Several Nashville school board members wondered aloud at their recent work session about why the city isn’t considering a similar approach. The panel decided to indefinitely suspend the planned return of middle schoolers last week.
Update: This story was updated to add information about the social distancing measures that are still required at restaurants.