BRANSON

City of Branson's aldermen met March 23 for an emergency meeting at city hall to discuss a proposal that would restrict several aspects of business.

Branson is now only open for "essential business" after city leaders passed a new ordinance to slow the spread of coronavirus Monday night.

City of Branson's aldermen met March 23 for an emergency meeting at city hall to discuss a proposal that would restrict several aspects of business, including:

•Prohibits public and social gatherings of more than 10 people.

•Requires social distancing of six feet or more amongst non-family members.

•Prohibits non-essential businesses from operating in the city.

•Prohibits on premises eating and drinking at any restaurant or business open to the public.

•Allows essential businesses to remain open as long as they don’t exceed 25% of their occupant load in enclosed public places. Daycares and medical facilities are exempt from occupant load requirements and for lodging establishments only the public areas are considered.

•Prohibits visitation to nursing homes, long term care facilities, retirement homes or any facility where the number of guests over the age of 60 outnumbers those under the age of 60 unless that visit is to provide critical assistance or care.

Violations of the ordinance may result in a fine of $500 or up to 90 days in jail.

The ordinance will go into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 24. The ordinance will end when the emergency proclamation of Branson Mayor Edd Akers expires.

City Attorney Chris Lebeck said during the meeting that essential business includes medical, food, infrastructure, and transportation and lodging. An amendment was later added to encompass law firms, accounting firms and daycares assisting employees of essential businesses. Branson's emergency management director may also deem businesses as essential or not.

"The goal is to increase social distancing and minimizing public interaction," Lebeck said.

Dining inside eateries is prohibited; however, restaurants can still operate with drive thrus, pick up and delivery, according to Lebeck.

With a wide swath of residents living in extended-stay lodgings, limiting gatherings of 10 people or more would only pertain to the public area, Lebeck said.

Per the ordinance, essential businesses are daycare facilities which serve employees of essential businesses, health care facilities, grocery stores, convenience food stores, service stations, drug stores, pharmacies, public service or telecommunication facilities, financial institutions, law firms, accounting firms, government offices and facilities, lodging establishments, and restaurants or other businesses as deemed essential by the Emergency Management Director or the City Administrator.

Members of the audience spoke out against the ordinance and urged council members to take the path that wouldn't infringe upon personal liberties.

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