Gov. Roy Cooper announced on March 23 that a new executive order would allow higher capacities for many businesses including bars, gyms and movie theaters, easing limits that many businesses have had to face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new order allows restaurants, breweries and wineries, amusement parks, gyms and pools to have 75 percent capacity with 100 percent outdoor capacity.
Conference centers, bars, sports arenas, movie theaters and other live performance venues will be allowed to have 50 percent capacity with safety protocols — like mask wearing and social distancing — in place. The sports arena capacity includes high school sports venues.
Museums, aquariums, retail businesses and shops as well as barbers, salons and personal care businesses can open up at 100 percent.
While the option is there, some businesses are choosing to not take advantage of the capacity increase.
“For the safety of our employees and customers, we think it’s safest to continue at a limited capacity,” Mast General Store Storyteller Sherry Moretz said. She added that the 50 percent capacity they have been working under has really only come into play on the weekends and will continue for all of Mast’s locations.
Meanwhile, Pepper’s Restaurant and Bar also opted out of opening further, the business announced via Facebook on March 25.
“We will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity and continue with the enforcement of mandatory face coverings at all times unless seated at a table or at the bar,” The post read.
Part of the eased restrictions includes the lifting of a curfew on alcohol sales, which was previously stopped at 11 p.m.
Boone Saloon Owner and General Manager Kelly DuPree said staying open later would be a “shock to the system” for her staff.
“We’ve been very careful throughout this pandemic, and to chagrin of some, extremely strict about masks, occupancy and social distancing,” DuPree said. “We want to make sure that by easing restrictions, we don’t ease safety protocols.”
According to DuPree, Boone Saloon’s prescribed occupancy is 70 upstairs and 70 downstairs in the GameChanger, however, they voluntarily lowered GameChanger’s to 45. DuPree said they were concerned about keeping social distancing with up to 70 people in GameChanger.
Also being able to take advantage of a large, outdoor space is Booneshine Brewing Company, with co-founder Tim Herdklotz saying it allows the brewery to pace themselves with the possibility of raising capacity.
According to Herdklotz, the plan is to eventually add additional socially-distanced seating in the bar area, but for the time being their focus is on getting their employees vaccinated.
Lost Province opted to increase their capacity to 75 percent, but CEO and co-owner Lynne Mason said it “has not made much of a difference.”
Mason said Lost Province still maintains the 6-foot distance required between parties, but was able to add an additional two tables with eight seats. Mason added that the restaurant is approved for a maximum occupancy of 137, currently limited to 102 people.
“We remain in full support of the 6-foot distancing as we believe the combination of masks and distancing makes a difference, and we are committed to keeping both our employees and guests safe,” Mason said. She added that 95 percent of their employees had been at least partially vaccinated, with 37 percent being completely vaccinated.