North Carolina bars could reopen, serve customers outside in bill advancing in General Assembly

RALEIGH -- North Carolina bars closed due to the pandemic could again serve patrons who are outdoors in legislation that's advancing in the General Assembly.

A vote is expected on Thursday to determine whether that will happen.

One of two bills that cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday would allow bars whose doors remain completely closed under Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order to sell beverages outside, whether on a patio or under a tent. Under Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan, bars are not allowed to operate.

What can reopen in North Carolina? Information about Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3

Under the current policy, it's likely bars won't be able to open back up until Phase 3, which is several weeks away. Restaurants and salons were allowed to reopen with the introduction of Phase 2.

The bill also opens the door for cities in North Carolina to potentially shut down streets to help restaurants and bars make way for additional outdoor seating.

"The outdoor seating location may include areas on a public street if the local government allows through its ordinances or permitting process the use of public streets during periods of temporary street closure for the service of and consumption of food or drink and the establishment obtains any necessary local government approval," it says.

That's something that has already happened in other parts of the country, like Cincinnati and Tampa.

Raleigh City Council discussed that option earlier this month.

"This could potentially be something that happens in some areas on the weekend rather than a 24/7," Raleigh Transportation Director Michael Moore said at the time.

Another measure expands further the customer capacity for restaurants and breweries allowed to partially reopen their indoor serving areas by going outside, too. The measures now head to another committee.
Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.