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Northam rolls back restrictions on bar seating

Restaurants, dining establishments, and other venues can use bar seating only if there is six feet between patrons, according to the order.

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has rolled back restrictions on bar seating that have been in place since the start of the pandemic. 

The changes were contained in an amended executive order signed Wednesday. 

Restaurants, dining establishments, and other venues can use bar seating only if there is six feet between patrons, according to the order. 

The previous version of the order said bar seats and other “congregating areas” of restaurants had to be closed. 

Dining and drinking establishments must keep up other precautions, like regular cleaning and distancing tables.

In an interview with 13News Now Thursday, Northam discussed what's behind his decision to roll back bar restrictions. 

"The number of cases in Virginia are going down, and the rise in vaccinations is going up and that’s a great combination and it’s allowing us to move forward," said Northam. 

The reopening of bars is a relief for bartenders in downtown Norfolk. 

Tony Parker, a bartender at Tap It Local said he has missed seeing his regulars at the bar. 

"We pretty much live off of our personality cause people tip based on the affection and actions that you show towards them so it’s really been sad and it's been a hard adjustment," Parker said.

Thursday afternoon, Grace O'Malley's Irish Pub and Restaurant welcomed back the first bar customer. 

Steven Chopman, a bartender at the restaurant, said it's a breath of fresh air.

"It was definitely a good feeling to serve your first bar guest I'm like this is awesome... Definitely glad to be back in the swing of things," said Chopman.

Northam also announced beginning May 15, alcohol sales will be able to go past midnight.