As omicron variant spreads, Oakland bar voluntarily closes to protect staff before holidays

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Billy Joe Agan posted a strong message Monday to his bar's Instagram page. He says he is closing Eli's Mile High Club out of an abundance of caution while the omicron variant continues to spread.

"I just didn't want to deal with this close to the holidays," Agan said. "I don't want me, staff potentially going home for the holidays possibly carrying this thing."

He says no one at his bar has tested positive, but he mentioned other bars have seen outbreaks. He didn't want to take any chances.

"I know other bar owners who've told me they are dealing with it," he said. "It is spreading rapidly and we share clientele."

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He says he was already going to close his bar for the holiday weekend, but decided to do it early given the circumstances. He plans to re-open right before New Year's Eve.

Oakland City Council will be voting on a new ordinance Tuesday that could require indoor places like bars and restaurants to require a proof of vaccination.

"We need to protect people who are inside these indoor locations and reduce the likelihood they come in contact with who have the virus who are positive," said Councilmember Dan Kalb, who introduced the ordinance. "This has been in the works before omicron, but now it is more timely. We hope this just keeps encouraging those not vaccinated to get the shot."

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Agan says he would support that move from the city, because he feels he is not getting enough guidance on this variant.

"I am kind of flying in the dark here," Agan said. "I am reading the news and deciding for myself what to do. I shouldn't be doing that, the officials should."

Bars and restaurants have endured many unknowns throughout the pandemic. Agan says it is frustrating to continue to go through this, but he says would rather take the health of his staff as a priority.

"I feel for those who have to stay open, because it has been tough," Agan said. "We are willing to help our staff as much as possible."

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