Blacksburg leaders considering closing bars at midnight, cracking down on house parties

Students, bar owners, locals speak out about proposed restrictions

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Blacksburg town leaders and police want to implement new COVID-19 restrictions which could limit what businesses, restaurants and residents can do.

Proposed Ordinance 1942 was presented to town council on Tuesday night. It would reduce restaurant, bar and brewery capacity to 50%. Those food establishments would also have to close at midnight, instead of the usual 2 a.m., for in-person dining. However, town leaders said they would consider allowing restaurants to stay open later for take-out or delivery.

“What we’re trying to get away from is that kind of critical midnight to 2 a.m. downtown rush that happens and just establish that that’s just not going to happen this year,” said Town Manager Marc Verniel during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Town leaders hope those restrictions would protect residents and the thousands of college students returning to Virginia Tech’s campus in just a matter of weeks.

Hokie House owner Brian Palmer told 10 News that he’s not too happy about the ordinance, but he figured it was inevitable. If passed, things at the restaurant won’t be that much different.

“We can only have a certain number of people in the bar anyway, so it’s not really affecting sales too much,” said Palmer. “We’re all operating at a loss as it is, it’s just one more step to get to the finish line, I guess.”

Police are working with apartment complexes to enforce a 10-guest limit and house parties won’t be tolerated. Rising Virginia Tech senior Hannah Serbesa said that could be tough to crack down on.

“I definitely think students are going to be upset, but I also think a good majority of students are going to be happy that those precautions are being taken in order to make everybody safe,” said Serbesa.

There would be a 50-person limit on social gatherings, except for religious services and weddings. Masks will also be required in indoor public spaces.

“To make it a rule, feels like they’re overstepping a little bit,” said Blacksburg resident Jonathan Kruckow.

“We’re going to do what we need to do to be safe,” said Palmer. “As long as people are abiding by the rules, that hopefully will at least curb this thing for a little bit and just move on from there.”

The new restrictions would apply any time of day, not just at night.

Town leaders would also enforce penalties for businesses and people who break the rules, whether they don’t wear masks or host or attend parties.

Council is expected to vote on the ordinance at the next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11. If passed, it would go into effect at 12 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12.

The ordinance would last for 90 days, unless it’s renewed by council.

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