‘It’s a start:’ Nashville bars re-open at limited capacity

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NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN)– The “regulars” at Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge were happy to be back under the glow of the neon lights Monday night.

“I just love the atmosphere it’s great,” Rich Friedman said. “It’s incredible.”

“I like people and I like music, and I don’t know if we can dance or not, but I like dancing,” Billy Hazelwood said.

After months of required COVID-19 closures, bars like Dee’s in Madison can now operate at a small capacity.

Only 25 customers at a time can be inside at a time, with social distancing measures in place.

Dee’s co-owners, Amy Richardson and Daniel Walker, say 2020 started out with a bang and quickly rolled down hill.

“We started off with like awesome numbers and then it just evaporated. Six months of income is gone,” Richardson said.

Across town, Trax bar manager DeMarko Smith agreed.

“The whole bar shut down has just been a major economic disaster,” Smith said.

Both bars relied on loans and savings to get them through, now they’re spending what they have left on preventative measures.

“You’re spending this extra money to do this extra detail, sanitization, and cleaning—but you also don’t have an income coming in to pay for that. So it’s a double whammy,” said Smith.

At Dee’s, Walker told News 2 they even installed a brand new air conditioning and ventilation system to create a cleaner environment for their patrons.

Drinks can still be shaken and stirred, they’ll just be served from behind plastic barriers at the bar.

You’ll find hand sanitizer at bar entrances, and customers wearing masks when they aren’t enjoying their cocktails.

“What’s great is that we’re COVID safe, and that’s how were supposed to do this,” said Friedman.

Smith is thankful to see people back on his barstools, but hopes regulations loosen quickly.

“Twenty-five people max is not enough people to sustain this business. I actually don’t know anyone in town where only 25 people could sustain their business,” Smith said.

But both bars say it’s a start, and a step in the right direction toward some sense of normalcy.

“If everyone just follows the rules, it will be really easy for us to have a glimmer of what life was like before and go back to enjoying each other’s company,” Richardson said.

Nashville’s modified Phase 2 orders went into effect Monday and require all bars and restaurants to close by 10:30 p.m.

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