INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis will relax novel coronavirus restrictions on the city's bars and restaurants starting next week ahead of the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA men’s basketball tournaments.
The changes announced Thursday will allow bars to operate at 50% capacity instead of 25% starting Monday, while restaurants will see their indoor restaurant capacity increase from 50% to 75%.
Bars, restaurants and music venues will also be able to close two hours later, at 2 a.m., instead of at midnight, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced.
Hogsett said the capacity and time changes were prompted by drops in the city's COVID-19 cases and its coronavirus positivity rate, and not because of the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA men’s basketball tournaments.
“I want to make it clear though that these decisions were in no way driven by March Madness,” Hogsett said.
The NCAA said last week that games would have audiences of up to 25% capacity for the men’s tournament, which begins in mid-March. The 68-team tournament will be played entirely in Indiana because of the pandemic, with most games in Indianapolis.
Marion County has seen its positivity rate drop from 16.4% in December to 3.8% most recently, said Dr. Virginia A. Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department. That's below the 5% threshold health officials consider the level at which communities can safely reopen, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Coronavirus case counts have dropped from the high hundreds in December to an average of 109 per day, she said.