Raleigh, NC – The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association was disappointed to learn Friday that Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that would have allowed bars to open outdoor seating across North Carolina.
The governor explained that he vetoed the bill because, as worded, it limited his ability to reenact protections in case of a COVID resurgence. But the NCBATA believes the governor’s office could issue a new Executive Order to incorporate the bill’s outdoor seating provision without the limitations on his Executive Power.
Bars have now been closed for 80 days. While many bars have limited or no outdoor seating, the bill would have been an opportunity for at least some to generate a small amount of revenue to help pay mounting bills.
Moreover, bars and taverns are being treated unfairly under reopening orders. On June 4, NCBATA filed a lawsuit on behalf of 185 businesses to have private bars included under the same Phase 2 reopening safety rules as restaurants, eating establishments, wineries, distilleries, breweries, and private clubs. That evening, Gov. Cooper hinted at a possibility of a Phase 2.5 that might allow bars to reopen sooner.
“We know the governor is doing his best to keep North Carolinians safe during the coronavirus epidemic and we support him,” said NCBATA President Zack Medford. “We believe that bars can take the same measures that make it safe to drink in breweries, distillery bars and restaurant bars, which have been allowed to reopen. Bars deserve the same chance everyone else has. We believe that the mention of a Phase 2.5 indicates the Governor is starting to hear our message and come to that conclusion as well.”
In addition to the suit, NCBATA is asking for donations to its legal fund. “Virtually all bars in North Carolina are privately owned and operated,” said Medford. “Bar owners are vital members of their communities. They’re the ones who sponsor kickball teams and host community fundraisers while their bars effectively serve as their cities’ town squares. We are working overtime to save these small business owners, many of whom are on the verge of losing it all. This lawsuit may be the only chance for bars to survive, and in order to cover the costs we are going to need some help.”