Carbondale nightlife adjusts as students are expected to return

By Brooke Buerck, Editor

Updated Aug. 6 3:18 p.m.

Updated Aug. 7 5:07  p.m. Traxx is now open again.

With SIU students soon to return to campus for the semester and COVID-19 and the restrictions that come with it still present in the Jackson County community, nightlife for students will have a different look this fall.

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Since shutting down over four months ago, many of Carbondale’s bars and entertainment venues have since reopened under new state and city regulations, welcoming business once again while modifying their practices to keep patrons and staff safe.

As of June 26, Illinois is in Phase 4 “Revitalization” of the Restore Illinois plan, which includes indoor facility reopening with accommodations for social distancing, limiting parties to 10 people and standing areas to 25% occupancy. 

The Carbondale City Council approved an additional step for bars last week, limiting their indoor capacity to 25% or up to 100 people, whichever is less, said Steven Mitchell, economic development director in Carbondale. 

“In this respect, Carbondale is a bit more restrictive than the state’s Phase 4 guidelines,” Mitchell said. “But frankly, what the city council is seeing when they considered this […] is a major, major spike in the states south and west of Illinois and a lot of bars are closing and all that. We don’t want our bars to close.”

Mitchell said bars and restaurants have the option to serve patrons outdoors in addition to or  as an alternative to indoor service and many have utilized this ability. 

Below are several of Carbondale’s bars and entertainment venues and information for each regarding their plans for the early part of the semester. 

Traxx

As of a July 23 Facebook post, Traxx is temporarily closed due to an employee reporting they tested positive for COVID-19. 

“[Upon hearing the information] we immediately closed down,” the post said. “As per the Health department and CDC recommendations the employee has been put into quarantine and we have notified all other employees that could have been exposed.”

Traxx’s first night open was July 17, with precautions in place such as a 50-person occupancy limit, hand sanitizer placed at and around the bar, tables rearranged to accommodate social distancing and asking patrons to wear a face mask when not seated or at a table. 

The bar, located on S. Illinois Ave., closed on March 16 before the mandatory shutdown and remained closed for the past four months. 

The post states that reopening is currently unknown. 

“Prior to this our employees were following strict rules such as wearing masks, constantly washing their hands and sanitizing their work area diligently,” the post said. “We promise to continue these practices once we reopen as well as adding anything necessary to ensure the safety of our staff and customers.”

With their previous July 17 reopening, owner Bryan Woodruff had said future plans for the bar were already uncertain with the possibility of closing down again still present.

“The goal is to be open as much as possible, but if we’re losing money [by] being open then it doesn’t make much sense for us,” Woodruff said. 

Woodruff had said as far as planning special events is concerned, “it’s hard to say [this far in advance]” but will Traxx would keep its hours set to opening at 3:00 p.m. and closing at 2:00 a.m. and staying closed on Sundays.  

“As far as special events, we will really just have to see how everything goes, it’s really hard to plan anything right now,” Woodruff said.

Traxx had announced drink specials on their Facebook page since reopening, and plans to keep music and themed nights similar to before they closed.

“We’ll probably be similar to what we were doing before, as far as a country-themed night and some other mixed-genre [nights] as far as music,” Woodruff said.

Saluki Bar N’ Grill

As of a July 16 post from the Saluki Bar N’ Grill public Facebook page, the bar is currently closed. 

The post, as well as comments from Saluki Bar N’ Grill underneath it, cited Carbondale’s restrictions on capacity limits as a reason for closing. 

“23 person capacity including staff just isn’t feasible at this time,” the post said. “Sorry to our loyal customers and staff. See you all when this is over.”

The bar later posted an update on July 21 reaffirming that their shutdown was due to a decision about the business, but also stated that “some loyal patrons and close friends of our staff may have been affected by Covid-19.”

“As a precaution, those staff members went to get tested for the virus and we recently learned a couple of them have received positive results for Covid-19,” The post said. “As a result, the rest of our staff will be getting tested and following the proper procedure in cooperation with the health department, thus delaying what we had hoped to be a speedy reopening.”

Saluki Bar N’ Grill, located on E. Grand Ave., first announced a reopening of their outdoor patio area on May 29 under Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan. 

On June 26, the bar announced on Facebook they were “social distancing indoors (with regulations),” and served patrons both out- and indoors until closing approximately three weeks later. 

Saluki Bar N’ Grill’s time frame surrounding the bar’s reopening is currently unknown. 

 The Cellar 

For patrons 21 years old and older, The Cellar pub announced on Facebook a May 28 reopening of their outdoor patio seating area and announced the reopening of indoor facilities on June 26. 

Both posts asked patrons to wear a face mask and refrain from moving tables and chairs from their original position. 

In addition, the June 26 post said no pool, darts, or shuffle board would be available, hand sanitizer would be placed around the bar for use and employees would sanitize tables and chairs in between customers. 

The Cellar is located on S. Illinois Ave. and their hours of operation at the indoor pub as of a July 6 Facebook post are Monday-Wednesday 5:00 PM to 12:00 midnight, Thursday-Saturday 1:00 PM to 2:00 AM and Sunday 1:00 PM to 12:00 midnight. 

Outdoor patio hours are Thursday 5:00 PM to 12:00 midnight and Friday and Saturday 5:00 PM to 2:00 AM. 

PK’s 

Since June 3, PK’s has offered a cafeteria beer garden in the side alleyway next to their building on the Carbondale Strip for patrons 21 or older to enjoy drinks or food. 

The bar, which is on S. Illinois Ave., opened up indoor facilities on June 26 with rearranged seating accommodations, hand sanitizer throughout the bar and with employees wearing masks and patrons being asked to do the same. 

Walter Wit, a manager at the bar, said if the city of Carbondale would allow, the bar would like to host musical performances outdoors on Saturday nights. 

Wit said the bar encourages patrons to choose outdoor dining, which is allowed to continue until the end of the year if needed. 

PK’s regularly posts drink specials and updated information to their Facebook page, but Wit said planning events far in advance is difficult with uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation. 

Hangar 9

Hangar 9 reopened its doors to patrons July 9, with hours currently set to opening at 3:00 p.m. and closing at 2:00 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. 

The bar, which is on S. Illinois Ave., first announced their reopening on Facebook June 24, and announced in a July 8 Facebook post their rules for the reopening.

The guidelines included a capacity limit, table and chair placement to accommodate social distancing, music performances starting and ending early and asking patrons to wear a face mask. 

“We are trying to provide good times, and live music in the safest way we possibly can, but to do so everyone needs to follow the rules,” the post said. “It will not work without everyone’s cooperation.”

After closing temporarily due to concerns about the virus, Hangar 9 advertised on Facebook that DJ Zay will be playing at the bar with no cover on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8 at 9 p.m.

The Varsity Center

After announcing their closure on March 12, live music venue The Varsity Center has transitioned many of its events to a virtual format, offering live music entertainment and comedy shows for streaming. 

Cara Recine, The Varsity Center’s executive director of operations, said they have kept indoor activity low in order to protect staff and patrons. 

“Right now we are offering very limited activity, just because our venue holds so many people and we are limited to how many people we can have,” Recine said. 

On July 11, The Varsity Center initiated a Music Under the Marquee series as well, which features live music performances on the sidewalk in front of the building’s entrance on the Carbondale Strip.

“It’s on Saturday nights from 7 to 11, it’s outdoors only, and the bar is open, you just have to have a mask to come in,” Recine said. 

Recine said the Varsity Center as of July 21 plans to continue the outdoor series, which so far has featured musical guests DJ Alvarado and Tajaj Lonell Taylor. 

The Varsity Center is located on S. Illinois Ave. and  posts event updates on their Facebook page, which Recine said is the best way to stay informed on future activities. 

Editor Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bbuerck25.

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