” A big deal. Charlotte-area bars, restaurants and sports venues push for looser COVID rules

CHARLOTTE, NC (The Charlotte Observer) – Bars and restaurants in Charlotte feel a great relief on Wednesday following Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement that he is allowing bars to resume serving people indoors and out. extend alcohol sales into the late evening.

Other groups are also rejoicing, with Cooper easing restrictions on open-air amphitheatres and concert halls as well as high school, college and professional sports venues.

The latest moves come as Charlotte and North Carolina see COVID-19 parameters continue to stabilize since the start of the year, and more than a million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“Were excited. I think the bar community, in general, will feel a big sigh of relief,” said Larisa Yanicak, director of beverages for Backstage Lounge at Southbound on South Boulevard.

Under the updated executive decree:

▪ The cut-off for alcohol sales in restaurants and bars will be extended from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. And bars will be able to open indoors at 30% capacity or 250 people, whichever is less. The order takes effect Friday at 5 p.m. and lasts until March 26.

▪ Outdoor amphitheatres and concert halls can reopen at 30% of their capacity. That would be good news for places like the PNC Music Pavilion in North Charlotte.

▪ There are 50% capacity restrictions for businesses and retail establishments, including restaurants, breweries and wineries, retail businesses, gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers and personal care facilities, swimming pools and outdoor amusement parks.

▪ The statewide curfew for all non-essential travel between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. also expires.

▪ A larger number of spectators will be allowed at high school, college and professional sports events. The number allowed will depend on the size of the room. Arenas with a capacity of 5,000 people will be able to open up to 15% of their capacity, provided security protocols are respected.

The last stay-at-home order was due to expire on Sunday. This is the fifth time that restrictions on phase 3 coronaviruses in North Carolina have been extended in one form or another since October 2, even as COVID-19 vaccinations are underway.

“We have reason to be hopeful in North Carolina,” Cooper said. “All the metrics we measure continue to stabilize. He also cited the continued rollout of the vaccine as cause for optimism.

And he stressed the need to continue wearing masks and respecting social distancing.

‘ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE’

Extending alcohol sales until 11 p.m. will mean less stress for bartenders, Yanicak said. The South End bar was only open from 5 to 9 p.m. and is a small space, she said.

“We only have a short time to get people in and not to push them out the door,” Yanicak said. “This will allow more people to come in and try us on, and people will be able to sit down and enjoy the experience.”

Backstage Lounge is a clandestine bar, but Yanicak said it functions as a restaurant because it is part of the South 48 complex and sells more food than alcohol.

‘THAT COULD MAKE IT TURN’

At Optimist Hall on North Brevard Street, extended hours of service could “make or break” The Spindle Bar and Billy Sunday, said Stephanie Andrews, who manages the two cocktail bars.

“It’s been really tough, and we’re depending on those late night hours,” she said. “It’s a big deal. It could be a game-changer for us.

She said revenue during the pandemic has fallen by about 30% to 40% each month compared to sales a year ago at Spindle Bar, which opened in fall 2019. Billy Lounge Bar The 1,450-square-foot Sunday opened just before the pandemic in February a year ago.

Normally the Spindle Bar can seat around 18 people, but during the pandemic it mostly went to take out. Andrews said customers can have a drink and walk around Optimist Hall and also order cocktails to take home.

In December, North Carolina relaxed its alcoholic beverage laws to allow the packaging of mixed drinks to take out. She hopes the governor will continue to allow sales of cocktails beyond the March 31 deadline, saying “this is a great option for us.”

“The restrictions for us have really limited what we can do for business. But we understand this because we want to make sure everyone is safe and healthy, ”Andrew said. “We’re going to roll with the punches, that’s the only thing we’ve been able to do so far.”

“EVERY LITTLE CAN HELP”

Although Mimosa Grill in downtown Charlotte is not a nightclub, executive chef Thomas Marlow has said expanding alcohol sales and ending the curfew will have an impact.

“We have noticed that on Saturday nights people want to go out later,” he said. “Any easing of restrictions will always be positive, that’s for sure. “

It will also mean being able to seat more people and not having to turn people away from the 9,000 square foot restaurant because without a curfew the restaurant can stay open later.

“I don’t want to laugh at the fact that we’re in the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s been a crazy year,” said Marlow.

IT’S INCREDIBLE’

Cooper’s announcement was also good news for Jackie DeLoach, owner of Hattie’s Tap & Tavern on The Plaza.

“Having people inside is really important to us,” DeLoach said Wednesday before Cooper’s announcement.

“The possibility that we can be open (inside) is amazing.”

A BURDEN RAISED

News of the expansion of on-site alcohol consumption and the lifting of the curfew has been good news for Chef Bruce Moffett, who owns several local restaurants including Barrington’s, Good Food on Montford, Stagioni and Bao and Broth.

“The 9pm curfew was a real burden. We actually lost most of our second seats and saw about a 33% drop in our revenue because of it, ”Moffett said. “It has been very frustrating to run our business under this curfew. I am confident that as the weather improves and customers can dine later, we will see an increase in sales. “

MORE PLACES FOR SPORT FANS

The latest capacity limits will impact sports venues in Charlotte.

Although the Charlotte Hornets have yet to have fans this season, they will now be able to host more than 3,000 at the Spectrum Center. The arena can normally accommodate around 20,000 people for an NBA game. The team hasn’t shared how many fans they expect to allow or when they will.

The Hornets’ next home game is on March 11 against the Detroit Pistons.

All other outdoor sports venues are allowed up to 30% capacity, which applies to Charlotte Knights, Charlotte MotorSpeedway, and high school sports.

For some high school sports, however, attendance will always be limited. Only 250 people are allowed inside for gymnasiums or other places that can accommodate less than 5,000 people.

The new guidelines also mean that the Coca-Cola 600 races May 28-30 at Charlotte Motor Speedway will include fans at a limited capacity of 30% with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, Concord Speedway said in a statement. .

“The energy and excitement of our fans is what fuels our sport,” said speedway general manager Greg Walter. “Although the stands are not full, being able to share this historic event with thousands of fans in person is a big step in the right direction. “

COVID NUMBERS

The update comes as the state experiences its lowest number of COVID-19-related cases and hospitalizations since November after the January pandemic peaks.

As of Wednesday, 11,074 residents of North Carolina died from the virus.

But three months after the vaccinations started, only 55,020 inhabitants of Mecklenburg, or about 5% of the population, received the two injections of the COVID-19 vaccines in a county of more than one million people.

And on Wednesday, around 97,962 first doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Mecklenburg County

The latest County Alert System shows the fewest red counties since the start of the system. The COVID-19 community alert system began in November, categorizing counties into three levels of community spread, with red being critical.

Mecklenburg County has moved to the Orange Zone – signaling “significant community spread”. This means Mecklenburg County has improved since late December, when the county first entered the red zone, with “critical community spread” of the coronavirus.

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