Bar and tavern owners across North Carolina were dismayed to learn at the eleventh hour that their small businesses must remain shut under Governor Roy Cooper’s newly announced Executive Order 141, which issued rules for Phase 2 openings during the coronavirus pandemic. Until Cooper’s announcement Wednesday, bars and taverns had been included under Phase 2 openings.

The executive order allows establishments to reopen if they generate at least 30 percent of their sales from food and non-alcoholic beverages. Bars, breweries, and taverns that do not meet that threshold must stay closed. The governor’s mandate allows bars within restaurants to open while stand-alone bars must stay closed.

In light of the unequal treatment of restaurant bars vs. stand-alones, bar and tavern owners have joined together to create the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association. Its mission is to advocate for issues specific to bars and taverns.

“The governor’s executive order leaves out thousands of small business owners across North Carolina while enabling national restaurant chains to continue to operate,” explained NCBATA founder Zack Medford. “Virtually all stand-alone bars in North Carolina are independently owned and operated. The safety of our guests and our employees is our No. 1 priority, and we have the most to lose from increased cases in our community. We take this virus very seriously, but we also know that if there is a safe way to open restaurants with bars, then there is a safe way to open stand-alone bars and taverns as well.”

The NCBATA has hired Raleigh lawyer Jack Cozort to serve as its government relations consultant. Cozort will work directly with the Governor’s Office, the state Department of Health and Human Services, and the North Carolina Legislature to lobby on behalf of bar and tavern owners across the state.

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