NC Republicans pushing to fully reopen bars, restaurants

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Though Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has set a June 1 target date to lift most of the COVID-19 restrictions, some owners of bars and restaurants say they want to reopen fully sooner than that.

“Fourteen months of restrictions have really come to a head now,” said Jason Ruth, co-owner of Tinyz Tavern in Wilmington and vice president of the North Carolina Bar Owners Association.

Under the current executive order, bars can operate at 50 percent capacity both indoors and outdoors. Restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries can operate at 75 percent capacity indoors and 100 percent capacity outdoors.

Ruth’s group has sued Cooper over the capacity restrictions.

He said he wants bars to at least be able to operate at the same capacity as restaurants but preferably get back to full capacity.

“The vaccines are here. Folks are getting them, including most of our members and our staffs. And, it’s time to get back to somewhat of normal business now,” he said.

Republicans in the General Assembly are backing a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to reopen fully as long as certain conditions are met. The bill cleared the House Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee Wednesday.

It would require: temperature checks and symptom screening for employees, frequent cleaning, a 10-person limit at tables (unless everyone is from the same household) and for masks to be worn at buffets and self-service stations.

“Society, generally, has come to an understanding of how we need to behave in a thoughtful and safe manner. And, I just trust our businesses who have had to deal with this for the last year,” said Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Henderson County).

The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association is supporting the bill, said the organization’s president and CEO Lynn Minges.

“As more and more people are vaccinated and positivity case counts continue to decline, we are eager to resume normal business operations in restaurants and bars as quickly as possible,” she said.

Cooper said Wednesday state health officials want two-thirds of adults to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

As of Wednesday, 47.1 percent of adults had done that, while 35.8 percent are fully vaccinated.

“With increasing vaccinations and ongoing work to slow the spread, I anticipate we’ll be able to lift all mandatory social distancing, capacity and mass gathering restrictions by June 1,” he said.

Cooper has vetoed previous bills that have aimed to reopen businesses sooner than what he called for in his executive orders.

“We have people who are not willing to take vaccines. We have folks that are not willing to wear a mask inside. And, all we’re asking is that we be safe regardless of how you personally feel,” said Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake County).

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