Cooper lifts alcohol sales curfew, rolls back restrictions on maximum capacity for businesses

Cooper will lift restrictions Friday for many businesses in North Carolina, as Covid-19 metrics improve and vaccinations increase. (Port City Daily/File)

It’s been just over a year since North Carolina went into the Covid-19 shutdown, and subsequent restrictions from Gov. Roy Cooper have followed. Today, the governor announced he will roll back some of them beginning this Friday, March 26, 5 p.m.

“Our percent of positive tests hovers around the 5% benchmark,” Cooper said.

While over the last month, positive tests have been on the decline, today it’s clocked in at 6.3%, according to data on the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services dashboard.


However, with almost one-third of North Carolinians over 18 having received at least one shot of the vaccine, and metrics continuing to improve, the governor said he will continue with the “dimmer-switch approach” to opening the economy in North Carolina.

He and the state’s top health official, Dr. Mandy Cohen, did stay steadfast with a mask mandate remaining in place, as will social distancing.

“We are in a promising place,” Cohen said.

Thus, Cooper will increase the permitted mass gathering size to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors. He also will lift the alcohol sales curfew from 11 p.m., plus ease restrictions on maximum capacity limits for many businesses.

Those allowed to open at 100% capacity include:

  • Museums
  • Aquariums
  • Retail businesses and shops
  • Barbers, salons, grooming and personal care businesses
  • Tattoo parlors

Businesses allowed to open at 75% include:

  • Restaurants
  • Breweries, wineries and distilleries
  • Amusement parks
  • Gyms and pools
  • Recreation spaces (bowling alleys, skating rinks, rock-climbing facilities)

Businesses allowed to open at 50% include:

  • Bars
  • Movie Theaters (or up to 75% outdoors)
  • Gaming Facilities (or up to 75% outdoors)
  • Meeting, Reception, and conference spaces
  • Lounges (including tobacco) and night clubs
  • Auditoriums, Arenas, and other venues for live performances
  • Sports Arenas and fields (includes professional, collegiate, and amateur)

Cooper’s updated protocols in executive order 204 will take effect March 26, 5 p.m., and is set to expire April 30 at 5 p.m. 

“As things continue to stabilize and we get more vaccines, we will make more changes as we move forward,” Cohen said.

Vaccine demand still outpaces supply. While some counties in North Carolina are seeing high interest, others, like Cumberland and Onslow, have leftover doses. Cohen said the state is looking further into those two specific counties, since they also host military towns: Fort Bragg in Fayetteville and Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville.

“We don’t know if demand is low or they’re getting vaccines through the bases,” she noted.

With 32% of individuals having their first shot and 19% being fully vaccinated, Cohen continued to praise vaccinators working overtime in getting doses into arms. Cooper said the pace likely will continue putting North Carolina on the path to opening vaccines earlier than May 1 to everyone in the state that wants one.

“As we go more and more into a large percentage of vaccinations, we will move into more smaller venues, pharmacies and doctors offices,” he assured.

“Every week we ask providers [if] they think they can take on the week’s allocation and more,” Cohen added. “They’re agreeing to be fast, fair, and equitably reflect community. Every week they’re saying ‘yes’; some say, ‘This week we need less.’ That’s when we can bring on additional vaccine providers and look for other partners or find a paid vendor to fill in gaps.”

The officials already are planning for the day the supply outweighs demand too. “We know that time is coming,” Cooper said.

He said he is willing to talk incentives with legislators and the health department to help convince anyone who is unsure that the three free Covid-19 vaccines offered in the state are safe and effective.

“Everything in moderation,” Cohen quipped, referring to the news yesterday that Winston-Salem’s own Krispy Kreme is offering its own incentive: a free doughnut everyday through 2021 to anyone who flashes a vaccination card. “I love me a Krispy Kreme doughnut, but not everyday.”


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