Bar owners plan to file suit against Gov. Cooper so they can open in Phase 2

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A group of more than 100 bar owners plans to file a lawsuit Friday seeking to overturn the exclusion of bars and nightclubs in Phase Two of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan.

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“It’s OK to have a beer inside a bar or a restaurant, you just can’t come to Isaac Hunter’s Tavern and have a beer. It’s just not fair and it’s not right,” said Zack Medford, president of the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association.

Medford said The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association is behind the suit that argues bars should have the same treatment as restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries – which are allowed open in Phase Two.

“We’re not asking for any special treatment. We’re asking for equal treatment,” he said.

Medford also owns Isaac Hunter’s Tavern in downtown Raleigh. They haven’t been able to serve customers since March 17.

“We don’t have any money coming in. Bars aren’t allowed to do take out,” Medford said.  “We’ve just been hanging on, working on finding ways to pay our rent.”

Medford said he was stunned and disappointed when Cooper removed bars that do not generate at least 30 percent of revenues from food sales from Phase Two.

He said he was further disappointed when breweries were allowed to reopen in Phase Two.

“At this point, bars are the only ones left out in the dark,” he said.

Bartender Julieanne Mohamed was serving up drinks in downtown bars before COVID-19, but is now collecting unemployment.

Despite wanting to return to work, she said she’s conflicted about whether she’s ready to get back behind the bar. She worries about her safety in a bar setting.

“A lot of people are going to congregate. It’s not that hard to be at a bar with one person and then you see a group of your friends come in,” said Mohamed. “You can’t control drunk people.”

At Isaac Hunter’s, Medford said they will enforce social distancing and he is considering adding tables and chairs to the dance floor to space out seating as well as allow customers to reserve booths.

“Whatever it takes to keep our guests safe, but we need to have the opportunity to do that,” he said.

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