Jan. 12—Bars and restaurants in Wyandotte County can remain open past midnight starting Wednesday, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, announced Tuesday.

Since November, bars and restaurants there have been required to close by 10 p.m. under an emergency order issued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. But under the new rules, they can serve customers until midnight and remain open until 12:30 a.m.

Kansas City, Missouri, as well as Jackson, Clay and Platte counties also issued 10 p.m. curfews then. The jurisdictions have had similar gathering limits as well, but Wyandotte became the first to ease the curfew.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was expected to announce the next phase of his city's coronavirus response rules in a news conference at noon Wednesday.

The decision comes even as COVID-19 cases are rising across the metro. The region added more than 600 new cases on Monday. The seven-day rolling average was 1,005 per day, up significantly from the two weeks prior. Of the five deaths reported in the Kansas City area on Monday, four were in Wyandotte County.

According to a news release from the Unified Government, the decision is based on input from small business owners in the area. Mayor David Alvey said the goal was to help businesses succeed and contain the spread of coronavirus.

"To the extent employees and patrons continue to mask up, maintain social distancing, disinfect, and limit gatherings, the relaxation of these orders can be accommodated — encouraging business activity and protecting public health," Alvey said. "Each of us must strive to neither get, nor give the coronavirus."

Bars and restaurants will still be limited to 50% of their normal operating capacity, and patrons will still be required to wear masks unless actively eating or drinking.

Wyandotte's new curfew goes beyond neighboring Johnson County, which has resisted adopting rules as strict as other large metropolitan counties. Johnson County bars and restaurants must close at midnight under current emergency rules, which are set to expire at the end of the month.

The news release noted that Wyandotte's previous rules matched those in Jackson County and Kansas City.

"However, not all jurisdictions in the region adopted identical restrictions, creating inconsistencies across some state and county lines," the release says. "This new order for Wyandotte County is more consistent with bar and restaurant protocols currently in place in most neighboring counties."

Kansas City's 10 p.m. curfew drew a lawsuit from the Blue Line, a hockey-themed bar in the River Market neighborhood, which argued Lucas' order was unlawful and the bar should be allowed to stay open until 3 a.m.

At the time, Lucas said that the bar's claim is without merit and that courts in Missouri have repeatedly upheld restrictions issued to respond to the pandemic.

A hearing scheduled in early December to consider a temporary restraining order undoing the curfew was canceled, but the case is still pending.

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