The Missoula Board of Health meeting on Thursday brought welcome changes for bars, restaurants, casinos, breweries and distilleries.

Director of Environmental Health Shannon Therriault said the closing time of 10:00 p.m. will be eliminated.

“What we are proposing is to delete the closing time altogether,” said Therriault. “Then to change capacity which right now is at 50%  and change that to be limited to the degree necessary to ensure physical distancing between customer groups.”

Therriault said the most important aspect of the change is to ensure as much physical distancing as possible for patrons.

“What we really want is for people to be six feet apart,” she said. “For those customer groups when they're seated to be at least six feet from other seated customers. It also increases the number of people who can sit together at a table from six to eight.”

Health Officer Ellen Leahy explained the reasoning behind the change in closing time, in that adjoining counties had already changed their closing time to 2:00 a.m. which created a traveling risk in and out of Missoula.

“I consider that it is a public safety issue and perhaps a disease transmission issue for those that can now not drive that far and go to bars that are open till 2:00 a.m. in neighboring counties and come back into Missoula, having been exposed to less controlled settings and being on the road.”

Patrons may no longer order at the bar, but must remain seated in order to be served.

Leahy said that all other directives will remain in place.

The changes will officially take effect on Friday, January 22.

View the entire meeting here.

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