Law enforcement to take action on ‘blatant violations’ of NC’s COVID-19 curfew

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As the latest COVID-19 restrictions take effect in North Carolina on Friday, business owners say they need help to get through the coming weeks. 

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is implementing a statewide curfew, requiring many businesses to close by 10 p.m. Alcohol sales must stop by 9 p.m.  

Cheetie Kumar, chef and co-owner of Garland in downtown Raleigh, said the decision will cut down on the number of customers she’s able to serve in a typical night.  

She’s limited service at the restaurant to be outside only, investing in heaters and decorations to try to make the experience better for customers. She’s still wary about indoor dining amid the pandemic. 

“Any measures that are needed are understandable, but I think all of these measures need to come with some kind of financial help for small businesses. We are hurting so bad, and we are terrified about the next few weeks,” she said. “The money that they’re discussing in Congress is not enough to stimulate the economy. It is literally to keep people from going out of business and being homeless.” 

Kumar’s restaurant also has a music venue and bar which have been closed throughout the pandemic. 

She worries about the rising case numbers in Wake County, which the state classified this week as an orange county, meaning there is substantial community spread. The county previously was yellow in the state’s color-coded alert system.  

Kumar said while she agrees with the need to take additional action to slow the spread of the virus, she questions if the curfew will have that impact.  

“It does seem kind of arbitrary to shut down a little earlier. All that really does in my mind is hurt our last turn,” she said. “I understand that the consumption of alcohol can make people make bad decisions, but the difference between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., I don’t know how much of a difference that’s going to have on the data.” 

Cooper pointed to other states that have implemented curfews in recent weeks, including Ohio and Massachusetts, saying they’ve had “some success.”  

“It’s hard to measure at this point because we are right in the middle of all of this, and a lot of other factors are coming into play. But, whenever you reduce the times that people are together indoors, you are making a difference,” he said. 

His latest executive order calls for enforcement “against individuals in cases of willful or repeated violations.”  

Once it takes effect Friday, it’ll remain in effect until Jan. 8.  

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said, “I would expect that as a first response, you’re going to see people maybe pulled over, educated regarding what the curfew is in an attempt to get voluntary compliance.” 

She said law enforcement will take action where there are “blatant violations that can be clearly established.” 

The order comes with a variety of exceptions including (but not limited to): travel to and from work, ride share services, travel to religious services and to essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies.  

“Any time that you have any type of an enforcement provision where there are very clear and enumerated exceptions, it does make it more challenging,” she said. 

When asked if moving Wake County’s designation from yellow to orange will impact enforcement, she said, “I think just from an enforcement standpoint, all of us are trying to use our voices, all of us involved in public safety and in public health here, are trying to use our voices and our positions to really encourage people: let’s come together, let’s do the right thing.”  

She added, “I feel like we’ve had overwhelming mask compliance. I think during the shutdown earlier in the pandemic, largely people were staying off the roads. Certainly, our traffic enforcement numbers would back that up. I do think that certainly as this drags on, all of us are getting worn out with it.”