As N.C. bars prepare to re-open, more than 100 have permanently closed

Local reaction to Governor Cooper easing restrictions on bars

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday bars will be allowed to re-open for indoor service beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, but for many bar owners the rollback on closures is too late.

Bars have been closed for roughly eleven months since the onset of the pandemic.

Zack Medford founded the N.C. Bar and Tavern Association, which has fought to get bars back open for months.

He says at least 100 of the 1,063 private bars in North Carolina have permanently closed, including two of his own bars.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of unique and incredible bars never re-open their doors in North Carolina, but hopefully this is enough to keep some of the remaining ones afloat,” said Medford.

Some, like Dustin Cook’s Pravda KGB, attempted to redesign their business model and find a way to stay open.

They re-opened as a café in September, but it’s not the same and they’re ready to get back to running their lounge and nightclub.

“I’m relieved after the governor’s news today that bars finally get to open up indoors at 30 percent,” said Cook. “It’s a step in the right direction and I feel that changing the 9 p.m. curfew to 11 p.m. will help people be able to at least make some money at their business.”

Over the last 11 months, Cook says they’ve lost $700,000.

However, Wednesday’s news is still a relief and Cook says they’ll take their re-opening as a lounge and nightclub slowly.

“We’re going to take it in strides,” he said. “We’re going to follow the recommendations and the guidelines that are out there for social distancing and operating safely, so we’re going to proceed cautiously with that and hopefully more people can be vaccinated and we can get back to normal sooner.”

Many bar owners are questioning why Governor Cooper decided to allow bars to re-open now. While our trends are declining, Governor Cooper repeatedly compared our current COVID-19 trends to those before the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday. At that time, numbers were concerning and bars were already desperate for some level of re-opening after roughly six months closed.

“We spent 343 days without any revenue coming in, with bills piling up, and many bars will never reopen again after this,” Medford said. “We just couldn’t survive with no money coming in. You’ve still got to pay rent, you still have to pay electrical bills and keep the lights on to protect your investment. And unfortunately for many bar owners, it just became too much.”

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