The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Brittany McGee is an assistant city & state editor and a senior at UNC.
Walking down Franklin Street is a much different experience than it was a year ago. People wearing masks, curbside seating, and a noticeable drop in foot traffic are signs of the strange times we are living in. However, the boarded up businesses that pepper the street are evidence of a more concerning change.
Ms. Mong, Lula’s, Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza, and Waffle House have all closed their doors since the pandemic began, and with students leaving after classes have gone remote, the economic impact COVID-19 is having on downtown Chapel Hill may be creating long-term changes.
Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order banning dine-in in restaurants on March 17 and issued a stay-at-home order on March 27, which resulted in numerous businesses closing temporarily with hopes to reopen once the worst of the pandemic was over. This decision by Cooper was controversial, but the threat of the virus called for unprecedented actions to flatten the curve in order to save lives.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has dragged on, as well as its effect on businesses. Yelp Inc. released a second quarter report that examined trends among permanently closed businesses since the pandemic and found that despite some industries bouncing back as stay-at-home orders are relaxed, the restaurant industry reflected the highest total business closures, surpassing the retail industry.