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Local bars and restaurants gear up for New Years Eve festivities

Local bars and breweries are gearing up for New Year’s Eve, this time amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cases are rising in Troup County, with the seven-day moving average at 27.4 new cases per day, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. That number is triple what it was for most of September, October and November. In addition, the positivity rate has approached 20 percent in recent days, levels not seen since late June.

The Texas Medical Association, the largest state medical society in the U.S., ranked activities according to their COVID-19 risk in July. Going to a bar was ranked in the highest category, 9 out of 10, comparable to attending a large concert, going to a sports stadium or attending a religious service with 500 or more worshippers.

Bars and restaurants have been open for several months now, however, and New Year’s Eve is typically one of the biggest nights of the year for the nightlife industry. 

In LaGrange, the taproom at Wild Leap Brew Co. remains closed, though the outdoor area is open, with masks required when not seated. Wild Leap, which has been filling online orders with curbside pick-up since the start of the pandemic, is selling “NYE Party Packs.” 

The party packs come in three different sizes and include an assortment of Wild Leap’s beer and vodka, read-to-drink cocktails, glasses, new year hats, noisemakers and cocktail recipe cards, depending on which pack is selected.

Main Street Pub will be open on New Year’s Eve and hosting DJ Chatt, according to the bar’s Facebook page. Entry is free until 10 p.m., after which a cover will be charged. 

Beacon Brewing Co. Owner Chase Hudson said his brewery would have a live band and be open until midnight.

He said Beacon’s outdoor space was helpful in reducing COVID-19 risk. Employees are required to wear masks, customers are not. Staff also have their temperature checked before each shift.

“There’s only so much you can do but … our entire staff actually got tested last week and will be tested again this week,” Hudson said. 

“And then every other week, [we] basically rotate 10 people through the staff to get tested, just to make sure we’re all good.”

La Bodega is having a party starting at 8 p.n. until midnight. There is a wear-white theme, a complimentary champagne toast at midnight and no cover. 

“We’re practicing social distancing … we do provide hand sanitizer and then our employees are constantly like washing our hands and stuff like that,” said owner Jovanni Ugalde. 

Ugalde said masks were not required for patrons but that employees have them. 

The bar is not operating under a reduced capacity due to COVID-19. The capacity at La Bodega is limited to 48, and a counter will keep track of that number.

Nutwood Winery co-owner Trish Liechty said the winery would be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., including live music from 8 p.m. to midnight.

“We have such a huge facility that our tables are spaced really far apart,” Liechty said. I would think our capacity would be no more than 150 though.” 

The typical capacity would be “a couple hundred people” with the outdoor space at Nutwood, but rain is forecasted for New Year’s Eve, so Liechty doesn’t expect to use those areas.

Masks are worn by employees at Nutwood but not required of customers.