Berger Calls on Cooper to Allow Counties to Reopen Restaurants

Raleigh, N.C. — After calling yesterday for county flexibility to reopen hair salons and barber shops, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) today called on Gov. Roy Cooper to grant counties local flexibility to reopen restaurants at reduced capacity, especially for outdoor seating areas. These two steps alone could help thousands of North Carolinians who are now going broke to get back on their feet.

Twenty-three states, including the majority of states in the Southeast, have reopened restaurants in some capacity, and three more have announced reopenings in the next few days.

Restaurant owners and employees are primarily small businesses, and Gov. Cooper’s executive orders have prohibited them from earning a living. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of unemployment applications are still unpaid by the Cooper Administration. Restaurant employees and owners can’t pay rent or buy groceries with no income and months-long unemployment assistance delays. Across the state, restaurants are announcing permanent closures because of the restrictions put in place by Gov. Cooper.

Sen. Berger said, “Other states, including the majority of those in the Southeast, have reviewed the same science, facts, and data as Gov. Cooper has, and reached a different conclusion on reopening restaurants. Gov. Cooper has not articulated his administration’s overarching goal or strategy. Why is he making different decisions based on the same information?”

Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance) said, “It’s time to follow the lead of the majority of states in our region by reopening restaurants. Counties should also consider opening some streets to pedestrian-only traffic to allow for expanded outdoor dining options. Gov. Cooper has prohibited restaurant owners and employees from working while at the same time failing to provide them with the unemployment benefits they’re due. This can’t go on.”

Half the counties in North Carolina comprise less than 10% of confirmed cases. Counties should be permitted to reopen restaurants, especially outdoor seating areas, provided they adhere to common-sense public health rules similar to those in other states. Some of those rules include:

  • Avoiding crowded entryways by requiring diners to wait outdoors or encouraging restaurants to provide reservation-only service;
  • Requiring disposable menus;
  • Not permitting entry to customers or employees with COVID-like symptoms;
  • Implementing social distancing rules, including spacing tables at least eight feet apart;
  • Requiring enhanced sanitization rules, especially for tables;
  • Restricting the maximum capacity and the number of diners permitted at a single table.

The official Medium account for N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger’s press office.

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