TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Bar owners are breathing a sigh of relief as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift.
"Of course it cut down on business a little bit, but we got through it," says Tom Riehle, owner of Riehle's Neighborhood Bar and Grill in Lafayette. "We didn't come through with flying colors but we were fortunate to hold our own."
As News 18 previously reported, the Tippecanoe County Health Department this week rescinded one its most controversial measures: a 1 a.m. curfew for bars and restaurants.
That comes after the county's COVID-19 positivity rate remained below 10 percent for four consecutive weeks.
As part of the amended health order, bar-top service is allowed at all hours.
"The inconsistency of hours probably messed with a lot of the business we wanted to have, but now that those have been lifted, we'll get back into our normal routine,"Riehle says. "People will get used to coming in later. The third shifters will have some things to do other than just going home."
THCD Administrator Khala Hochstedler says the restrictions allowed businesses to remain open during the pandemic. But she says it's crucial that bars and their patrons remain vigilant with social distancing and mask-wearing.
"Because we want to keep the lower numbers so that we can keep this trend going and not reverse it, so it's going to take the community working together so we can keep this," she says.
With news that some March Madness games will happen in West Lafayette and a limited number of fans will be allowed, Riehle hopes business spills over to his bar.
"This year we want to go big guns, have a good crowed, have good food and drink for the people and just have good camradery for our Boilermakers," he says.
But Hochstedler cautions that excitement around the tournament could result in yet another spike of COVID-19 cases.
"Anytime that there's an event that people want to gather that is the risk so just reminding people to be careful and social distance and do it smartly," she says.
Under the amended order, bars are still limited to 50 percent indoor capacity and dance floors must remain closed.