Some Mat-Su businesses see restrictions ease as bars can reopen

Published: May. 8, 2020 at 7:59 PM AKDT
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Some businesses in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough returned to almost-normal conditions on Friday as coronavirus restrictions were eased across Alaska.

At the Valley Hotel, customers were able to come in and eat without a reservation. Scott Hegey, a regular patron at the hotel, said he came and half expected to be turned away.

“It makes a nice change,” he said, as he prepared to order breakfast.

Michelle Kincaid, the co-owner of the hotel, said doubling the amount of customers allowed to dine-in to 50% of capacity would make a big difference.

“It’s not enough to survive, but given the times with covid, there’s not enough people out on the streets,” she said. “But, it’s better than nothing and it’s a stepping stone.”

At the back of the hotel, the Caboose was opening for the first time in almost two months. Bars are allowed to reopen with 25% capacity and customers can come in and drink without ordering food.

Steve Nicholls sat enjoying a glass of wine. “It’s just great,” he said.

Nicholls’s caregiver Tyler Day said he was happy too. The bar is a “home away from home,” Day said and the pair pop in most days.

At the Palmer City Alehouse, owner Steve Dike was also excited about the change. “It actually means quite a bit for us,” he said.

Easing of bar restrictions meant customers could come and sit at the bar while drinking. Instead of 20 barstools, there were just five or six due to the need to maintain social distancing.

“Some people just like to sit at the bar and talk to the bartenders,” Dike said. “That crowd will definitely start coming back.”

It’s not just restaurants and bars that are seeing changes. The Big Valley Bingo Center reopened Friday for two sessions at 25% capacity.

“I’m just excited to have an opportunity to get going again,” said Sandy Powers, the owner of the bingo hall.

Players would need to make reservations and there were crews hired to clean and check reservations.

Powers said she was happy to get charitable gaming going again, helping nonprofits stretched thin with the pandemic.

As for the impact of coronavirus on her business, Powers would have to wait and see. “The long-term effects, I just don’t know,” she said.

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