Three states Virginia, New York and Arkansas in the USA have improved their alcohol availability rules to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Virginia has imposed a 10:00 PM curfew for serving alcohol on-trade, with bars and restaurants having to close at 12:00 midnight. New York has implemented a 10:00 PM curfew for restaurants and bars that hold a liquor license.

The new restrictions in Virginia and New York come into force as the United States is amidst a second COVID-19 peak, that even dwarfs the first peak earlier this year. As of the second week of November more than 60,000 people were hospitalized across the country, according to the COVID Tracking Project. More than 170,000 new cases were reported on November 18, according to the New York Times.

Virginia introduces 10PM curfew for alcohol on-trade

Governor Ralph Northam of the state of Virginia issued new COVID-19 restrictions for bars and restaurants which are in effect since November 16, 2020. As per the new restrictions:

  • Bars and restaurants are restrcited from selling alcohol after 10:00 PM.
  • All bars and restaurants must close at 12:00 midnight.

New York and COVID-19: 10PM curfew for restaurants and bars

Governor Andrew Cuomo of the state of New York issued new COVID-19 restrictions for all bars and restaurants that hold a liquor license which took effect on November 13, 2020. As per the new rules:

  • Restaurants and bars with an alcohol license must close both indoor and outdoor dining at 10:00 PM.
  • Takeout and delivery are not allowed for alcohol after 10:00 PM, but will be allowed for food only.

Additionally private gatherings will be limited to 10 people as per the new rules.

The Governor has called on local governments and the NYPD to ensure that the restrictions are enforced across the state.

The surrounding states have already implemented nightly curfews for bars and restaurants.

  1. New Jersey has an indoor dining curfew of 10:00 PM since November 12.
  2. Connecticut has a 10:00 PM curfew for everything except delivery and takeout since November 5.
  3. Massachusetts has a stay-at-home advisory and all restaurants and bars are restricted for takeout and delivery for food only, after 9:30 PM since November 6.

Considering the surrounding states’ bans the new restrictions in New York would stop people from other states coming into New York to evade rules in their home states.

New cases of COVID-19 are rising in New York State with 18,400 cases reported in the first week of November and a 2.24% testing positive rate. However, it’s not as bad as back in spring when New York was considered the USA’s epicenter of the virus.

Arkansas implements 11PM curfew for alcohol on-trade

Governor Asa Hutchinson of the state of Arkansas announced that the Arkansas Health Department has issued a directive to businesses that are licensed to sell and allow consumption of alcohol on their premises to close by 11:00 PM. The directive covers restaurants, bars, and private clubs with “on-premise” permits. This will be effective from November 20, 2020 till January 3, 2021.

According to the governor the measure is aimed at reducing social interaction in groups and was recommended by the Winter COVID Task Force.

The National Alcohol Beverage Control Association provides current policy changes updates related to alcohol policy measures in response to COVID-19 in the USA.

The logic of reducing alcohol availability to contain the spread of COVID-19

The alcohol availability rules in Virginia and New York aim to help contain the spread of the virus. Alcohol has been found to affect people’s behavior in ways that impede protective health measures against the virus such as physical distancing and protective mask use. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that among young adults with heavy alcohol use, adherence to public policies like stay-at-home orders is suboptimal, declines over time, and is associated with alcohol use events.

Early on in the coronavirus pandemic when many governments had to introduce lockdown measures during the first COVID-19 wave the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidance to member states to limit alcohol availability in order to help contain the outbreak, protect health service capacity and promote people’s health. Consequently many countries across the world heeded the advice and implemented various alcohol policy solutions to tackle alcohol’s role in the public health crisis.

Given that alcohol weakens the immune system and that it burdens health systems, improving alcohol availability measures is an effective solution to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.

[This article was updated on November 24, 2020 as per new information from Pulse Multi Media]


WHSV3: “New alcohol restrictions for Virginia present challenges to local restaurants and bars

EATER New York: “New York Announces New Curfew For Restaurants and Bars

CBS News: “New York to require bars and restaurants to close by 10 p.m.

The New York Times: “No Food? No Booze. Cuomo Cracks Down on Outdoor Drinking at Bars.

NABCA: “COVID-19 Resources”

Pulse Multi Media: “Gov. announces 11 p.m. closing for businesses that sell/serve alcohol