Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill passed by the General Assembly that would have allowed bars in North Carolina to reopen. However, some businesses that are self-described as bars are opening up.
Gov. Cooper’s May 20 executive order, which moved the state into Phase 2 of reopening, stated that restaurants could open as long as they did not exceed 50 percent of the capacity for the building and set up tables to maintain a 6-foot social distance. Under the order, bars are not allowed to open.
In the order, bars are defined as “establishments that are not eating establishments or restaurants, that have a permit to sell alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption" and "are principally engaged in the business of selling alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption.”
A business that calls itself a bar, but makes 30 percent of its revenue from food and has a kitchen and inside dining area is classified as a restaurant according to state laws.
Pantana Bob’s, the popular sports bar and restaurant located on Rosemary Street, is one such local establishment that has been able to open up under Phase 2, despite calling itself a bar.
Marlena Moore, a bartender at Pantana Bob’s, said that the bar has implemented social distancing measures required by the executive order, such as spreading tables apart and not allowing anyone to sit at the bar.
“We also have completely made the bar area so that you can’t sit at the bar and it is only an ordering area,” said Moore. “We’ve completely cleared out the front space so that no one can sit and congregate. You go order your food or your drink and then go sit down at your table, you’re not allowed to stand and congregate."
Moore also said that Pantana Bob’s has changed its hours to 3 p.m. to midnight in order to encourage customers to pay attention to social distancing guidelines.
“We’ve had to cut our hours down because sometimes people have been abusing the fact that we’re open and getting a little rowdy, so we’re trying to cut down our hours to avoid those rowdy hours,” Moore said.
Carolina Coffee Shop, the restaurant, coffee shop and bar located on East Franklin Street, has also opened up for in-restaurant dining during Phase 2, and like Pantana Bob’s, has made sure that customers are able to maintain 6-foot social distance.
Zachary Brown, a manager at Carolina Coffee Shop, said the shop has spaced out furniture in order to maintain social distancing and only operates at half capacity.
“We are also making sure that servers give as much space between each other and themselves and the guests as possible at all times, and are only within that 6-foot distance if they are for example setting down a glass or setting down a plate of food,” Brown said.
Other Chapel Hill bars and restaurants that have recently opened back up are Might as Well Bar and Grill, Carolina Brewery and Tru Deli.
Eve Trammell, a staff member at Carolina Brewery, said the restaurant has hired back all staff laid off due to the pandemic, but that the staff are encouraged not to return if they do not feel safe doing so.
“We did have to lay off some employees at the start of the pandemic and now everyone has been given letters saying we are welcome to come back if we want to,” Trammell said. “But if we feel unsafe and would like to stay out for a longer period of time, we’re welcome to do that as well”.
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