By Associated Press - Sunday, September 13, 2020

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Several Wichita bars and nightclubs have been ignoring the city’s 11 p.m. coronavirus curfew, with one owner saying he has to do it for his business to survive.

City and county officials say the venues that have been flouting the curfew put in place by Sedgwick County health officials could lose their liquor licenses and expose themselves to lawsuits if their patrons or employees get sick.

Among the well-known bars that ignored the curfew Friday night were Heroes, Emerson Biggins, Revolution, 6 Degrees and Rock Island Live.

Darren Greiving, the owner of the Blu Night Club in western Wichita, said staying open late is important to his business’ economic survival.

“Our livelihoods have been taken away from us for over half this year,” he said.

County Manager Tom Stolz said businesses that ignore the curfew could lose the legal immunity from coronavirus lawsuits that state lawmakers granted them earlier this year. The county could apply for a court order forcing businesses to comply with the curfew, though officials have taken a lenient approach to enforcing it so far.

To date, city and county officials have not issued any citations related to the curfew or a city mask requirement.

Kansas health officials have reported 48,386 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 511 deaths from the disease since the start of the pandemic. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Kansas decreased over the past two weeks, going from roughly 599 new cases per day on Aug. 29 to roughly 452 per day on Sept. 12. In Sedgwick County, which is home to Wichita State University, 7,839 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

On Friday night, police noted the Wichita bars ignoring the curfew but didn’t intervene. The officer in charge of the operation, Sgt. Matthew Hall, said police were compiling information on potential violations of health rules into a report for city officials to review.

Mayor Brandon Whipple said it’s important for bars to comply with the curfew.

“I get it that bars and their employees need to make money, and this has been a tough time,” he said. “But we’re not going to beat this virus if we don’t take it serious and follow our health orders and mask ordinance.”

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