City closes bars, restaurants, limits taxi passengers
In a special meeting on Wednesday, November 25, the Nome Common Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance that effectively closed bars and restaurants serving alcohol for onsite consumption of alcohol from Nov. 26 through Dec. 13, midnight. However, the prohibition does not extend to limit alcohol sales for consumption off-site, meaning that liquor stores can still sell alcohol.
The special meeting of the Council was necessary because the limitation on alcohol sales was not part of an ordinance that otherwise authorized City Manager Glenn Steckman to take swift action to deal with the spike of COVID-19 cases. The Council met via zoom and heard support from several members of the public to close the bars and also limit gatherings in other places.
Norton Sound Health Corporation’s Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson was invited to give his medical opinion on the state of affairs in Nome regarding COVID. He said NSHC is in support of closing bars and limiting restaurants to takeout only. He said that taxis are also a place where people sit in close proximity and he recommended to limit cab riders to one passenger or members of the same family bubble only, and to have all wearing masks, including the driver. Dr. Peterson also strongly advocated for a citywide mask mandate and to limit gatherings to small groups.
The recommendations were heard and Steckman issued an emergency order that closed restaurants for onsite consumption of food, but allowing takeout or home deliveries. Under threat to lose their chauffeurs license if in violation of the order, cab drivers are allowed to drive only one passenger or members of the same household inside the cab- all masked- at a time.
The order also limits public gatherings in public spaces to no more than 10 persons, except for grocery stores.
Mayor John Handeland made the point that City Manager Steckman had in the past taken a lot of heat over these actions that some found too restrictive on Nome’s economy. “The Council is responsible, too, and we should be stating that we are in support of the order he put out,” Handeland said.
It is notable that no public comment was offered in opposition to the new measures taken or the closure of bars and restaurants.