HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Guam bars are no longer off limits to military service members as of Friday — welcome news for the bar industry that just recently reopened to a very limited market.
But uniformed members of the Guam National Guard on active-duty status were still restricted from patronizing bars as of 5 p.m. Friday, according to Capt. Mark Scott, public affairs officer for the Guam National Guard.
That restriction, however, is expected to be lifted soon, Scott said.
Thomas Peinhopf, representing dozens of bar and tavern owners, said they welcome the military patronizing bars, adding, "Any additional customer is a good thing for any business, no matter the background."
"Some bars have a larger percentage of customer mix — military, local, tourists — so it is certainly a game-changer for some establishments," said Peinhopf, operator of LiveHouse in Tumon and The Shady Lady in Dededo.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero allowed bars to reopen at 50% maximum capacity on Feb. 24 after nearly a year of closure due to Covid-19 health and safety concerns, but the military still restricted its personnel from patronizing these establishments.
That military restriction was lifted Friday, following a March 19 policy guidance from Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander of Joint Region Marianas, and Brig. Gen. Jeremy Sloane, commander of the 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base.
The joint policy guidance states: "In alignment with local public health authorities, and in light of improving public health conditions, the prohibition against access to bars is hereby rescinded."
"Patronage of bars, indoor or outdoor dining at off-base establishments, and off-base social gatherings are authorized consistent with (the governor's Feb. 19 and Jan. 28 executive orders) and any supplementing local public health guidance," the guidance states.
Military service members are also advised to continue adhering to social distancing, hygiene and cloth face-covering protocols in all authorized dining and social gatherings.
"Violations of this order are subject to adverse administrative actions and/or disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice," Menoni and Sloane wrote in their policy guidance.
Peinhopf said business has been stable since bars were allowed to reopen.
However, he said, the 50% occupancy rule has prevented bars from reaching their normal sales numbers.
"The bar community will have to play catch-up for one to two years to recover from the devastating political decisions made, and many had to throw in the towel forever," he said.
Some bars permanently closed their doors as a result of the shutdown.
Except for a number of weeks between mid-June and mid-August 2020, bars and taverns were closed from March 2020 to the last week of February 2021.
Peinhopf, who earlier took the governor and other agencies to court over the shutdowns, also said bars remain treated unfairly compared to large, corporate businesses.
"Ironically," he said, "the bar community is still being watched for potential citations while larger corporate businesses have no longer any sanitation, temperature taking, occupancy restrictions or distancing in place."