Bar owners rush, preparing to reopen Friday after governor lifts COVID-19 restriction

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 8:25 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2021 at 9:35 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - With COVID case numbers and hospitalizations going down in the state, Governor Roy Cooper is easing some restrictions.

Cooper calls the reopening method a “dimmer switch” approach to reopening the state. But, bar owners in the East are just glad the lights are coming back on at all.

Bars that haven’t seen a customer in almost a full year, now have two days to prepare to reopen.

Zack Medford founded the N.C. Bar and Tavern Association, which has fought to get bars back open for months.

He says at least 100 of the 1,063 private bars in North Carolina have permanently closed, including two of his own bars.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of unique and incredible bars never reopen their doors in North Carolina, but hopefully this is enough to keep some of the remaining ones afloat,” Medford said.

The state is only lifting one restriction: the curfew. But state health leaders will ease up on others, so businesses can start bringing in more people and money.

They’ll have to start at 30% capacity, and restaurants and bars will be able to keep selling alcohol past 9 p.m. until 11 at night. As for outside arenas like football stadiums, they will scrap the 100 person cap.

“I think it’s reasonable to loosen restrictions to some degree,” Medford said.

Rob Waldron, the owner of 519 in Greenville had to close his doors last March as well.

But is it a coincidence that the reopening comes days after Waldron filed a lawsuit against the governor over the continued shutdown?

Pitt County Health Director John Silvernail said, “Overall, I feel good with where the data is going and with our rates in terms of improvement of our rates. Still not where we’d like it, but still better than where it was.”

Silvernail echoed the governor calling for caution as bars try to get their sales back in the black.

The executive order also said it is important to continue to limit bar operation by requiring that all guests, be seated at tables and counters and by separating guests so that different groups are socially distanced.

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