On April 4, Gov. Tom Wolf will lighten restrictions on bars and indoor dining, as well as increase gathering limits across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The lighter restrictions will allow for alcohol service without the purchase of food, remove the alcohol curfew, resume bar services and increase indoor dining capacity to 75%, according to the governor’s press release.
For some Penn State seniors, the restrictions put a damper on their college experiences — especially during their final year exploring the college bar scene.
After a short amount of time in the bars before the coronavirus, Josh Crispell found his favorite pre-coronavirus spot.
“I would say The Basement [Nightspot] was my favorite when it was at full capacity,” Crispell (senior-marketing) said. “It was socially the best bar, because you could move around and meet a lot of new people.”
For the younger seniors and current juniors, coronavirus restricted bars have been the only bar experience they have had after turning 21 amid a pandemic.
Ross Hamilton turned 21 in March and is experiencing the end of the current restrictions, while also experiencing bars for the first time in his life.
“I’ve been to the Phyrst, P-Mans [Primanti Brothers] and Local Whiskey so far,” Hamilton (junior-mechanical engineering) said.
Hamilton said the only place that felt like an actual bar was the Phyrst, and all other spots felt more like restaurants.
“You couldn’t really tell that [the Phyrst] was only [at] 50% [capacity],” Hamilton said. “The way it was set up, it didn’t look like there were a ton of empty spaces.”
A major concern of Penn State students like Kerrigan Soura and Nick DeCandia is whether bars will continue to use LineLeap as a reservation service or revert to its traditional use as a “fast pass” to get ahead of the crowd.
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LineLeap is an app that allows bars to offer line-skip passes, cashless cover purchases and mobile drink ordering, on top of other features.
Soura (junior-finance) said getting into a bar using LineLeap during coronavirus restrictions has been challenging due to the amount of students reserving tables.
“I basically don’t even try to go on the weekends right now, because it’s not worth the effort,” Soura said. “I think it’ll be much better after the restrictions are lifted.”
DeCandia (senior-aerospace engineering) said he thinks access to bars when restrictions are loosened will greatly depend on how each bar utilizes LineLeap.
“It depends on if LineLeap is now an established means of getting into bars or whether that’s something that’ll get phased out,” DeCandia said. “When you want to go to a bar that uses LineLeap, you have to be diligent about checking it.”
Overall, DeCandia, Crispell and Hamiliton are more concerned about the logistics of getting into bars rather than the potential spread of the virus at bars with lessened restrictions.
The three pointed out bars might be the safer late-night option as opposed to going to apartment parties and fraternity activities.
“Fraternities are a hot spot because they resumed activities they were doing before COVID,” Hamilton said, “and I don’t think much as changed other than they’re not doing it under the spotlight.”
DeCandia said he believes bars offer more opportunities to enforce coronavirus regulations than apartment parties.
“An apartment party is unregulated, and you know that no one is wearing a mask there at all,” DeCandia said. “Bars do a pretty good job of keeping people safe.”
For Crispell, parties see a wider variety of people than a bar would, opening up the chance for greater infection.
“At bars, you’re usually with people you know and you’re around all the time, but at apartment parties, random people come in.”