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Popular Reno bar shuts down after COVID violation

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The popular bar/arcade, Press Start, has closed its doors after bars reopened two weeks ago.

Over the weekend, City of Reno Code Enforcement was out looking for non-compliant businesses that could force the state to shut down bars again.

When code enforcement stopped in at Press Start and saw that both the arcade and bar operations were happening they gave the owner, John Simpson, a notice of violation.

News 4 called the City of Reno on Monday to check on the violation's details. Alex Woodley, with the city's code enforcement, said the city did not tell Simpson to shut his doors and all they did was suggest what would meet guidelines.

According to Woodley, "If the bar is going to be open, per the governor's order, the arcades need to be shut down or if the arcades are open then the bar needs to be shutdown. The exemption that exists in the governor's order is gaming arcades -- interactive games."

Under Governor Sisolak's Declaration of Emergency 033, in Section 10, and the state's agreement with the Washoe County Bar/Taproom Coalition, gaming at a bar is only allowed if it is regulated the Gaming Control Board.

Essentially, this means the only type of games allowed to be played at a bar are those linked to betting.

Below is the direction that the City of Reno is using to determine bar standards during the pandemic. They are documents from both Washoe County and the State of Nevada.

John Simpson said the guidelines are too broad and rules like this forced him to the sideline during a time where he needs to be gaining back what alls bars lost on when they were forced to close.

Simpson said,

This mandate was obviously badly written and it might just be an oversight. We would like to see it cleaned up – the language. There is no sense in having certain industries impacted. You can have a slot machine, but not a video game? It makes no sense. You can have axe throwing, but you can’t have a pinball machine? Makes no sense. It could simply be a matter of the state looking at it and realizing each business should be judged on its own merits and not a one size fits all approach.

News 4 asked Simpson why he did not just stay open as a bar or an arcade, but he said it is no longer a smart financial option for him.

According to Simpson, "After the second closure, we switched to arcade only. That, while there was a lot of community support, was not enough. The bills kept piling up. We were just trying to hold on to get the bar reopened and so being a bar or being an arcade is effectively a closure."

More importantly, to Simpson, is his staff that is reliant on this job. Simpson said the whole process has been taxing and the team spent hours meeting guidelines as both an arcade and a bar.

Simpson said at this point Press Start is closed and he hopes that the State of Nevada will make an exception for his business as they did for playing games in casinos.

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