Missouri bar owner defends packed Lake of the Ozarks pool party

'We stand with our decision,' owner says

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The owner of a Missouri bar stood by his decision to host a packed pool party over Memorial Day weekend, saying no laws were broken.

Videos on social media appeared to show throngs of partiers without masks in the water at Backwater Jack's Bar and Grill in Lake of the Ozarks, despite officials urging social distancing due to COVID-19.

"We stand with our decision to move forward with Memorial Day Weekend plans," owner Gary Prewitt said on the bar's Facebook page. "We love our customers and will continue to do our best to provide delicious food, drink, and entertainment at Backwater Jack's."

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Prewitt said that hired medical staff conducted thermal checks at both entrances of the pool and anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees was refused entry. Personal bottles of hand sanitizer were also handed out to guests at the entrance and throughout the duration of the event. Staff were also given a choice if they wanted to work the event and were not penalized if they chose not to, Prewitt said.

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Missouri's statewide stay-at-home order expired earlier this month, but residents are still ordered to practice social distancing. The order, set to expire at the end of May, leaves it up to local public health officials to enforce.

"Social distancing is not a crime and therefore the sheriff's office has no authority to enforce actions in that regard," Camden County Sheriff Helms said in a statement. "We expect residents and visitors alike to exhibit personal responsibility when at the lake. We also respect the right of citizens to move freely around the lake and take responsibility to protect themselves from any expected dangers related to COVID-19. We need to trust, engage and empower Missourians to continue health safety measures while adjustments to restrictions are considered and being implemented."

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Backwater Jack's is a seasonal bar and restaurant, and the virus shutdown has upended a third of its season, leading to a "tremendous impact" on its staff and their families, Prewitt said.

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Backwater Jack's has not immediately responded to FOX Business' additional requests for comment.

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