Delaware bars, restaurants and taverns Monday were ordered by Gov. John Carney to halt dine-in services to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The establishments are allowed to offer pickup, takeout and delivery service.
Carney’s declaration begins at 8 p.m. Monday.
It also bans public gatherings of 50 or more people, consistent with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and closes gaming activity at Delaware casinos.
Delaware right now has eight known cases of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Delaware Restaurant Association said Monday it has no information yet about how long the restrictions will be in place.
“These restrictions will hit Delaware’s restaurants and bars especially hard,” Carney said in a prepared statement.
“Delawareans should continue to support these businesses, and their workers, by ordering takeout or delivery. Restaurants also remain a critical source of food for vulnerable populations."
Carney said, "But this is a very serious situation, with a significant amount of uncertainty. If you gather with 50 people or more, you are only increasing the risk that more Delawareans will come in contact with this virus. Let’s not make a challenging situation worse.”
Carney is following the lead of New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania governors, who have ordered restaurants and bars to shutdown.
The shutdown of dine-in services affects an estimated 2,000 eating and drinking establishments throughout the state.
Some Delaware pub and restaurant owners already began voluntarily closing their establishments. Dogfish Head announced last Thursday it would close its Milton brewing tasting food and kitchen, along with its two Rehoboth Beach restaurants Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats and Chesapeake & Maine.
Sunday night, Stoney's British Pub owner Mike Stone said he also would close due to health concerns for his staff and customers.
Stone said he became concerned after customers crowded into this restaurant Friday night looking to celebrate St. Patrick's Day early. "I was slammed," he said.
The British pub owner said people wanted to hug him and shake his hand, as usual. He shook his head.
"I don't understand it. People have no idea what is happening in the world," Stone said, and that's when he decided to close.
"It made me feel horrible like I was part of the problem," he said through tears.
"I have to do something. If the government can't figure this out, then I can."
On Monday morning, the Charcoal Pit announced it had temporarily closed its two locations, including the flagship operation on Concord Pike.
And Monday afternoon, Mike Kelly, owner of Wilmington's legendary Irish pub,
Kelly's Logan House, said the tavern would not open for St. Patrick's Day and would stay closed indefinitely.
Other restaurants now temporarily closing include Wilmington's Columbus Inn and Stitch House Brewery.
“Closing our restaurant locations was a logical step during this outbreak. Swift action was needed to ensure the safety of our workers and the community,” said
Louis Capano III, CEO of Capano Management, owner of the Columbus Inn and the two Charcoal Pit restaurants. “Our next priority is exploring ways to provide food to the community throughout this crisis.”
He said all workers will be compensated during the closings until further notice. The three locations are considering options to reopen for take-out, drive-through and curbside pick-up orders.
Delaware employs about 50,000 service industry workers, which accounts for 10 percent of the employment in the state, according to recent figures from the National Restaurant Association.
Estimated sales in 2018 were $2.2 billion, the restaurant association says. Every dollar spent in the table service segment contributes an estimated $1.65 to the state economy. Delaware's restaurant industry is the largest small business employer in the state.
Carney said he is authorizing Delaware’s Secretary of Labor to develop emergency rules to protect Delaware workers and ensure that unemployment benefits are available for reiswhose jobs are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
This story will be updated.