Livehouse in Tumon

RARING TO REOPEN: Livehouse in Tumon, like many other bars and taverns, is raring to reopen nearly a year since the public health emergency was declared on Guam. The Department of Public Health and Social Services is reviewing the proposed guidelines to reopen bars, to be presented to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero in time for her anticipated order to shift Guam to Pandemic Condition of Readiness 3. Post file photo

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is "highly considering" a shift to Pandemic Condition of Readiness 3 by Friday, but the 50% occupancy limit for restaurants won't increase right away, according to Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor's director of communications.

Paco-San Agustin said an immediate increase in capacity will most likely apply only to retail, shopping centers or malls, and similar activities that gradually opened first in PCORs 1 and 2.

The Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, meanwhile, is upbeat about the reopening of bars and taverns by Monday.

"The governor seems to be favorable in finally allowing bars and taverns to join restaurants with the reopening guidelines," GHRA President Mary Rhodes said, adding she's thankful for this development.

GHRA has been working closely with the Department of Public Health and Social Services on the draft reopening guidelines for bars, and this is now under legal review.

The next step is for Public Health to put the guidelines into a guidance memo format and then present it to the governor, in time for her anticipated Friday signing of an executive order shifting Guam from PCOR2 to PCOR3.

'We are ready'

Thomas Peinhopf, who represents nearly 50 bars and taverns, said bars and taverns are "ready to reopen safely."

"It's what we've been waiting for and we don't want to get shot down again because we always are the first to close and the last to open. So we're aware of that," Peinhopf said.

DPHSS spokeswoman Janela Carrera said on Wednesday said, "ultimately, the approval to allow bars to reopen will come from the governor." 

Rhodes said GHRA is hopeful the maximum capacity for bars and taverns will be similar to restaurants.

This means if restaurants are allowed to operate on a 75% capacity limit, then bars and taverns should also be able to operate on the same level.

Adelup has not dismissed the idea of 75% occupancy for restaurants, "but it's not likely" to happen on Friday, Paco-San Agustin said.

"Is the door closed on reopening bars? No, but discussions are ongoing to ensure whatever is opened is done so safely," she said. "So we ask for patience as this process takes place and we continue to remind the community of the three Ws so that we can continue to lift restrictions safely."

The 3Ws are wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.

GHRA's guidelines submitted to DPHSS include guidance on wearing masks, social distancing, signs, communal space, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, and health and safety notices to employees and guests. There's also an added section on ventilation, Rhodes said.

"Overall, everybody is feeling pretty happy and grateful that we're finally moving forward," Rhodes said.

She met once again with Public Health on Wednesday for the finalization of the draft guidelines.

Rhodes also called on bars and restaurants to reach out to GHRA, which has been advocating on businesses' behalf and working with the government on compliance issues.

Peinhopf, who operates Livehouse in Tumon and The Shady Lady in Dededo, started in hotel and restaurant management before venturing into bar operations. He said he knows firsthand that bars can be operated in the same safe manner as restaurants.

He said he had a brief discussion with Rhodes about the bars' reopening guidelines. Bars and taverns were observing those and will continue to do so, to keep their staff and customers safe, he said.

"It's mixed emotions," he said, about the prospect of being allowed to reopen as early as Monday. "It's been a year. Yes, we want to reopen and operate again and we feel safe and secure about it. On the other hand, we have lots of damages to take care of."

Commercial rent payment requests keep coming, he said, though bars were only allowed to operate for a few weeks since March 2020.

"There have been permanent bar closures and bankruptcy, and one suicide among bar owners," he said. "We're treated differently for too long. There's no proof worldwide that bars are super spreaders of the virus. Locally, no cases can be traced to bars."

On Wednesday night, a bar owner in Tamuning said another upsetting issue is owners of commercial buildings raised their rent during the pandemic, at a time when bars are not allowed to operate.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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