The local watering holes have been shut down for over a month in Tahlequah, and although a timeline for returning to business has been laid out, it's unclear what they will look like once the doors open.
The city of Tahlequah has decided to delay reopening certain businesses from the dates issued by Gov. Kevin Stitt. In April, the governor said bars can start to operate with diminished standing room occupancy while following social distancing and sanitation protocols starting May 15. With Tahlequah a week behind that schedule, local bars will be able to open their doors May 22.
A longstanding establishment in the downtown area, Ned's, remains closed to the public. Co-owner Steve Kirkpatrick hopes to open May 22, but only if health experts think it is safe.
"At this point, I think it's better to listen to the medical experts and try to heed their warnings," he said. "Believe me, I want to go back to work just as bad as anybody, but I personally am looking out for the common good of everyone. I know we're getting cabin fever and going insane, but I look at the big picture. We need to stay together as a whole to see it get knocked out."
While bars should be able to open if COVID-19 cases continue to decline, limiting patrons might not be financially lucrative enough for some businesses to open their doors. Kirkpatrick received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, but he isn't sure if it will be forgiven.
"In addition to the social distancing, personally, I feel like it's going to be really tough to make enough income off of those kind of figures to stay afloat for any extended period," he said. "I don't know how long it's going to go, but if that's the case, I don't know if it's really worth opening up at that time, if those stipulations are in place."
The crew at Dewain's Place is planning to welcome guests back on May 22. Manager Kyle Batch Hancock said the bar will reopen with new specials and a new happy hour list. Live music will grace the stage all weekend, May 29-31. The first night of music will be Doc Fell's CD release party.
"As far as safety precautions, we will follow whatever the [city] decides at that time," he said. "It's continuing to evolve and change weekly, so we will adhere to the guidelines in place at that time."
The business has taken this time to remodel bathrooms and add a few small changes throughout the building.
"We look forward to seeing everyone soon and sharing our new summer menu with everyone," said Hancock. "We have a few unique items we think everyone will enjoy."
Kroner & Baer Pub has used its time away from pouring beers to serve up a plethora of burgers, tacos, fried chicken and more.
However, owner Chris Whytal said he and everyone else are eager to open the pub doors again on May 22.
"That is the plan, unless there's any setbacks with the city," he said. "We're just going to do a soft opening and start with patios only. Then we'll allow customer inside, as long as the spacing requirements are met."