Alabama is limiting the sale of alcohol to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In an emergency meeting today, the Alabama Beverage Control Board voted unanimously to cut off on-premise alcohol sales at bars, restaurants and clubs at 11 p.m. each night with the requirement that all alcohol be consumed by 11:30 p.m. The board had originally considered cutting off sales at 10 p.m. and consumption at 10:30 p.m. but, according to ABC Administrator Mac Gipson, pushed the deadline back after hearing from bar and restaurant owners.

Gipson said the limitations are a “way to mitigate the difference between a complete shutdown and (serving alcohol) until 2 a.m.”

“It won’t make everybody happy because there are bars that depend on the late-night trade… but a bar by definition is a congregation of people,” Gipson said. “There are very few (bars) where they can space out 6 feet apart.”

Much of the concerns about bar crowds centered on the beach, he added.

“Ingestion of alcohol generally leads to higher levels of fraternization,” Gipson said.

Calling the decision “gut-wrenching,” chair Col. Alan Spencer said he hoped the order would be “short-lived.” The alcohol order has a 120 day limit but can be rescinded at any time.

Gipson said state health officials had asked the board to consider cutting off alcohol sales at 9 p.m. The change does not affect curbside or retail sales, only on-premise consumption for bars, restaurants and clubs. The businesses don’t have to close but must quit selling alcohol at the prescribed times.

Violators could be subject to having their license suspended.

The order goes into effect Aug. 1.

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