How some Raleigh bars, nightlife venues are striving to keep customers safe during New Year’s celebrations

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Bars are getting ready for New Year’s Eve as COVID-19 cases continue to climb. While downtown’s First Night Raleigh celebration requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, it’s up to bars and restaurants to make their own rules.

New Year’s Eve festivities are returning to Pour House Music Hall and Record Shop after being canceled last year due to the virus. It will take more than a ticket to get in.

Proof of vaccination or a negative test from the past 72 hours is required for all guests and performers. Production Manager Jac Cain said the policy has been in place for about four months.

Doctors warn that COVID-19 tests are a snapshot in time. Someone could test negative in the morning and be positive in the evening.

“Well, it’s the closest we can get away with,” Cain said. “Except for testing somebody on site every day, there’s not a whole lot, we can’t really do that.”

Cain has been responsible for checking performers for proof of vaccination or a negative test.

“There’s some disgruntled people, but if they follow through with what they’re supposed to do, then everything will be hunky-dory,” Cain said.

Young Hearts Distilling is celebrating its first New Year’s Eve in business. It is also requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from the past 48 hours.

“We made that decision as soon as we started thinking about having a large group gathering,” co-owner Chris Powers said.

Powers said they’re hoping to welcome in 200 people for dinner, drinks, and dancing. As for customers who may argue when asked for more than ID at the door, he said it comes down to them trying to celebrate safely.

“Our goal is to kind of make this a safe environment for as many people as possible,” Powers said. “So we’re gonna have that conversation with guests at the front door, it’ll be either a member of management, myself, or one of my partners at the front door just talking to people, letting them know our policies.”

Staff is required to be vaccinated at both places. Powers said Young Hearts Distilling will require boosters for eligible staff members by Jan. 3.

COVID-19 cases have surged in North Carolina this week. The 9,377 new cases that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported on Wednesday is the most in more than three months.

Dr. David Wohl, a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC-Chapel Hill, said because omicron spreads so quickly, it will only take about three to five days to see the effect of New Year’s Eve celebrations on COVID-19 numbers.

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