Local businesses react to mandatory curfew for bars and restaurants

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas’ rise in cases led Governor Hutchinson to issue a mandatory curfew for restaurants and bars that serve alcohol. These businesses have to shut their doors by 11 p.m., a move that could hurt bars used to operating until the early hours of the morning. The curfew went into affect Friday, and those caught operating after hours face penalties of up to $500 in fines, or one month in jail. 

Out of the many bars and restaurants lining the Rivermarket, Cannibal and Craft is one of the newest additions. “We did our grand opening the third week of October,” said Ronald Mathews, general manager for the Little Rock branch. Staff say they’ve done well given limited capacity due to COVID, and have adjusted to operating in the middle of a pandemic. “We usually have a line outside early on in the night,” said Mathews – people itching to come in and spend their money into the early morning hours. “Our busiest time is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.” 

But now with the 11:00 cutoff, the bar is forced to think on their feet to keep business afloat. “Trying to figure how to adjust to that,” said Mathews, “we’re scrambling.” Mathews says they’re even considering offering a brunch just to make ends meet. 

But less than a block away, sports bar Big Whiskey’s is breathing a little bit easier. They also serve alcohol, but usually close before the new day. “We generally close at either 11 or 12,” said general manager Max Ceaser. The restaurant recently reopened after a summer-long shutdown and have already adjusted their hours to allow customers to watch key NFL games during social distancing precautions. “We’re closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Ceaser said. Now, they’ll shut their doors just a bit earlier, around 10:00 instead. 

But for places like Cannibal and Craft, a little bit earlier – is a lot. To make up for the lost hours, the bar says they’ll start the day-drinking in the upstairs lounge at 3 p.m. – a 6 hour difference from the upstairs club’s normal weekend start time of 9:00. 

The mandate will stretch until January 3rd, which includes early closures on popular outing days such as the day before Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve. Both Cannibal and Craft and Big Whiskey’s want customers to know they’re still open and serving food and drink, just at different times. You can learn more about Cannibal and Craft here, and Big Whiskey’s here

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