“Better than nothing”: Bars reopen at 30% capacity

Bars across North Carolina open for the first time in almost a year

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Bars were allowed to reopen Friday at 5 p.m. at 30% capacity indoors for the first time since state mandated closures at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring.

“We’ve all struggled mightily this last year, but you know we’re grateful for what we’re getting now and hopefully as the numbers keep going down [the restrictions will] ease even more,” said Jim Carter, who owns Lagerhead’s Tavern.

At Wrightsville Beach, it’s still the off-season and business owners down here are hoping things will pick up this spring and summer as visitors come to town.

“It’s been extremely difficult. It’s been really, really tough,” said Jimmy’s owner and manager Keaton Gilleece. “Thankfully, we’ve had a tremendous amount of local support and that’s what got us through it.”

Many bar owners say bars were unfairly singled out with forced closures that have put at least 100 bars across our state out of business permanently.

“It’s better than nothing so at this point, we’ll take 30%,” Gilleece said.

Carter knows the harsh reality of COVID-19.

He lost his brother to the virus just before Christmas.

Still, he and others feel it’s taken far too long for bars to get the chance to operate.

“My family has been affected by COVID,” he said. “I lost a brother this year. It’s real. I’ve had my shots. I just don’t agree with the way it was administered. I think the bars were really treated unfairly.”

Across the street inside Sweetwater Surf Shop, Maddie Brown says its uplifting for everyone to see people coming back to the beach.

“I definitely think that the bar scene around here brings in a lot of business for the Wrightsville Beach area and the majority of the businesses are small businesses,” she said.

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