The owners of Como Smoke and Fire on Paris Road said complaints that they’re not adhering to social distancing rules are hurting their business.

A complaint about large gatherings and people sitting at the bar of the restaurant was sent to the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department Aug. 7, according to previous Missourian reporting. Matt and Christy Hawkins, the owners of the restaurant, said the Health Department told them they were in compliance with all health ordinances after the complaint was filed.

“We’re just frustrated, because we’re not doing anything wrong ... ,” Christy Hawkins said, “and people are thinking we’re careless and we don’t care about our customers.”

The original complaint alleged that the restaurant hadn’t changed its practices since the pandemic struck. The couple, however, said they have spaced tables 6 feet apart and that the restaurant operates at about 50% capacity. All employees wear masks, and customers are not allowed to wait to be seated without a mask, they said.

The restaurant also filed a petition to allow seating at their bar, which must be approved by the Health Director, according to the city’s health ordinance.

“So those pictures did not show anything except us being compliant,” Christy Hawkins said.

Scott Clardy, the assistant director of the Health Department, said that while the city received several complaints about restaurants and bars not following health ordinances, it often just goes to the facility and provides some education to owners. The only bars in Columbia that have received notices of violations are Willie’s Pub & Pool, the Country Club of Missouri and Truman’s Bar & Grill.

Christy Hawkins said it is her impression that the public doesn’t fully understand all the nuances of the city and county’s health ordinances for restaurants and bars.

In Columbia, everyone 10 and older is required to wear a face mask when around those outside their household in both private and public settings. The ordinance includes exceptions for people with disabilities, and masks can be removed to:

  • Eat or drink at a restaurant or bar.
  • Play sports or exercise outdoors.
  • Drive in a vehicle.
  • Communicate with the deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Receive dental examinations and other services that require you to remove your mask.
  • Staying put in a business 6 feet from other patrons.

A new ordinance added more restrictions for restaurants and bars Monday, including limiting groups of customers to no more than 10 people and requiring people to remain seated when not entering, leaving and using restrooms.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Assistant city editor for the public health and safety beat. I am a second year graduate student studying public policy journalism. You can reach me at mne275@umsystem.edu or on Twitter @MikaylaEasley

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