Triangle bar and restaurant owners react to easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The governor’s decision to ease some pandemic restrictions will impact many businesses, among them bars and restaurants. Bars haven’t been able to have patrons indoors for almost a year.

Joey Barbour, the owner of the Blind Barbour, said as restrictions led to declines in business, the bills kept coming in.

“It has definitely put a strain on trying to get bills paid and just making sure you’re able to survive,” Barbour said.

Like all bars in the state, the Blind Barbour was closed from March until June. Then he was allowed to open with limited outdoor seating.

He transformed his back area to make it work. But the governor’s announcement to allow indoor seating at 30 people capacity is a big deal for him.

“For most bars, it’s not a lot at all, but being a small space like we are, small staff, neighborhood location, 10 people inside and even a few outside is enough for us to carry on,” he explained.

He might even be able to hire back the two employees he had to layoff.

“It’s going to help out tremendously,” Barbour said.

Many restaurant owners also support the decision.

“It’s been a little stressful, but we’ve been doing whatever we can to accommodate people in this hard time,” Gianni Cinelli, the son of the owner of Vivo Ristorante in Raleigh said.

Cinelli said they consider themselves lucky. While business is down, they have a loyal customer base and food that lends well to takeout.

But that curfew meant they had to close early.

“You might think an hour is not a big deal, but you have to make sure your employees can get home safe,” Cinelli said. “If we have to clean the restaurant every night those curfews can be really difficult because you have to send employees home a little bit sooner, you’re a little bit short-staffed,” he continued.

Alcohol sales can continue until 11 p.m., the cutoff has been 9pm.

“Maybe it’s seven dollars for an extra drink right and maybe only seven people are getting it a night. That’s $50. Only $50 but multiple that by seven, that’s $350 a week, multiple that by 52 times in a year. You’re looking at $17,000, maybe,” Cinelli said.

The new executive order takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday and will last until March 26.

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