Conducting business in the U.S. Virgin Islands poses unique challenges not often encountered in the states, but also unique opportunities. This 20-part series offers tips for doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, covering a broad array of topics affecting employers. Part seven of this series addresses several provisions of U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan, Jr.’s July 1, 2020, ninth supplemental executive order extending the state of emergency due to COVID-19 that he initially declared on March 13, 2020.
Tip 7: Additional Measures to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 Among Employees and Patrons of Restaurants, Bars, and Nightclubs and Additional Restrictions for Travelers Take Effect and the Suspension of the Plant Closing Act Has Been Vacated
Additional Restrictions for Bars, Restaurants, and Nightclubs Put Into Place
As we previously reported, on June 1, 2020, Governor Bryan issued guidance on safety precautions that the territorial government “recommends” as “Suggested Better Business Practices” for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs to follow to avoid the transmission of the coronavirus and to protect the health of employees and customers. The July 1, 2020, executive order modified this guidance by establishing new restrictions on the hours these businesses may operate. Specifically:
- Nightclubs and cabarets (a category not expressly mentioned in the earlier guidance) must close for so long as the U.S. Virgin Islands remains in the state of emergency, absent an earlier lifting of this restriction by a subsequent order of the governor.
- Bars must close between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. daily for as long as the territory remains in the state of emergency, absent an earlier lifting of this restriction by subsequent order of the governor.
- Bars, restaurants, and other establishments holding Tavern Keeper A or Tavern Keeper B licenses must refrain from the sale of alcohol between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. daily for the duration of the state of emergency, absent an earlier order lifting this restriction.
Violations of the provisions of the executive order may be punishable as a misdemeanor. In addition, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs is authorized to assess administrative fines and/or take action to suspend or revoke the licenses of noncompliant businesses.
On July 9, 2020, Governor Bryan announced during his COVID-19 update that all bars are ordered closed. Restaurants may serve alcohol, but restaurants are prohibited from allowing patrons to sit or stand at bars.
Increases in the numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 have prompted other jurisdictions, including California, Florida, and Texas, to impose restrictions on businesses selling alcohol for on-premises consumption.
Additional Restrictions for Travelers Put Into Effect
The July 1, 2020, executive order requires all travelers arriving into the Virgin Islands by air or sea to comply with the travel advisory posted by the territory’s Department of Tourism and the U.S. Virgin Islands Port Authority. Currently, the travel advisory requires arriving each passenger to wear a face covering upon disembarkation, complete a traveler screening questionnaire, and undergo screening to confirm that the individual has a temperature below 100.4º Fahrenheit. Individuals who do not successfully complete all components of the screening must self-quarantine until tested by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health Epidemiology and Disease Reporting Team.
On July 9, 2020, Governor Bryan stated during his COVID-19 update that, beginning on July 15, 2020, individuals who are residents of a state with a COVID-19 positivity rate of greater than 10 percent or whose travel originated in any such state must present test results showing that they are negative for COVID-19 upon their arrival into the territory. The test must be administered within 5 days prior to arrival into the territory, or a test may be taken upon arrival. Individuals who do not provide results of a negative, pre-arrival test or demonstrate that they have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies within 4 months of travel must quarantine for 14 days. If a test is administered after arrival into the territory and the test result is negative, the quarantine can be discontinued. As of the date of the July 9 announcement, this list consists of 10 states: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas.
The July 1, 2020, executive order also specifies that passengers on intra-island public transportation ferries or public transportation ferries arriving into the U.S. Virgin Islands must wear face coverings while travelling on the ferries.
Suspension of Plant Closing Act Expires
As we previously reported, the governor issued a March 30, 2020, executive order that suspended the provisions of the Virgin Islands Plant Closing Act (VIPCA) for a period of 120 days, or until further of the governor. The July 1, 2020, executive order provides that the suspension expired on July 1, 2020.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs. Ogletree Deakins will post additional tips for employers doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2020 on the firm’s U.S. Virgin Islands blog.