How bars have adjusted New Year’s Eve during COVID-19

With an 11 p.m. curfew, capacity at 66% and masks a “must have,” bars in downtown Little Rock are doing what they can to help people raise a toast to 2020.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — New Year’s Even is usually filled with packed bars, champagne toasts and counting down until midnight together — but for obvious reasons this year, things couldn’t be the same. 

Arkansas bars and restaurants have to close at 11 p.m. on Thursday night and at least for another month into the new year. 

It’s safe to say everyone is ready to say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021!

While some of the traditions we love about New Year’s Eve can’t be the same, bars in the River Market District got creative to still give people a chance to celebrate, but safely. 

Owner of the Library Kitchen & Lounge, Rob Byford, said it’s been a tough year for everyone, but he wanted to make sure there was a space for people to come and safely have a good time.

“I didn’t get here at 9 this morning to make money today… it’s for you, it’s for our guests, it’s for our staff,” he said.

With an 11 p.m. curfew, capacity at 66% and masks a “must have,” bars in downtown Little Rock are doing what they can to help people raise a toast to 2020. 

Entertainment Director at Willy D’s Rock and Roll Piano Bar, Susan Erwin Prowse, described it as “bittersweet.”

“I’m just hoping that we can have fun, stay safe, and see some improvement in the right direction next year,” she said.

At Willy D’s, Prowse said last call will be at 10:40 p.m., which means instead of ringing in the new year at midnight it’ll come a couple hours earlier.

“We decided to do a 10 o’clock ball drop, meaning countdown with the champagne and the kissing. Well, I guess kissing if you came with the person,” she said.

Reservations had to be made, like always, but the dueling piano bar sold out only a couple hours before doors opened.

The biggest challenge, according to Prowse, is having live music and telling people they can’t dance.

“We have on the screen ‘no dancing please, wiggle in your seat’,” she said.

Down the street at the Library Kitchen and Lounge, Byford said similar restrictions are in place. 

“Tonight I hope it’s going to look very similar to what last year looked like without the people and without the crowds,” he said.

According to Byford, they’ll have up to 100 people inside, instead of their max capacity of 300. 

There will be a seated meal, live band and full security to make sure all rules are followed. 

“I’ve spoken to the health department personally and they think we are doing as good of a job as we possibly can so we aren’t going to ruin that tonight,” he said.