How Arkansas bars are navigating reopening as COVID-19 restrictions ease

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Bar owners are coming up with plans on reopening their bars after the health department gave them the green light Monday.

Bars inside restaurants can reopen May 19 and stand-alone bars can reopen May 26.

Willy D’s in one of the most popular bars in downtown Little Rock and starting Thursday, you will be able to enjoy a drink and live music again.

“We’re going to do what’s right for our patrons and employees, of course,” Entertainment Director Susan Erwin Prowse said.

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Guidelines for the bar, Prowse says, include social distancing and mask-wearing.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said guidelines for bars will be similar to restaurants; like requiring face masks, only allowing a third of capacity in, and enforcing social distancing.

“We’re not going to encourage congregating,” Prowse said.

Smoking will also no longer be allowed inside Willy D’s due to it being a public health concern. Willy D’s will be open Thursday through Saturday. 

Don Dugan, the owner of Dugan’s Pub, is waiting on more instruction from the health department before he makes a decision on reopening his bar.

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“I want to make sure we’re in compliance with what’s going on,” he said.

Dugan opened his restaurant last week and said things have gone smoothly so far and customers have been very understanding, especially regarding the face mask policy.

“It’s just like you can’t serve alcohol to anybody under 21. If they don’t come in with a mask then we ask politely, ‘did you leave it in your car or somewhere that you can go get it?'” he said.

Dugan wants to first make sure his customers are safe sitting at his bar.

“We want people to come in and feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable going out yet, then don’t. It doesn’t matter if you come to see us or anybody else,” he said.