NC breweries reopen leaving some bar owners scratching their heads

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Phase 2 is well underway and people in the Triangle are getting the chance to sit down and drink an iced cold beer at some local breweries; however, bar owners are left scratching their heads.

Governor Roy Cooper's latest executive order considers breweries, wineries, and distilleries establishments that qualify to re-open but leaves bars out.

Originally, that group of businesses fell under the bars category, but the North Carolina Brewers Guild demanded clarification from the NCDHHS earlier this week on what classifies as a "restaurant".

Geoff Lamb, the founder of Big Boss Brewery Company in Raleigh, says he learned that he could open his business on Friday around 5 p.m.

"We were fortunate enough to be able to open," Lamb said.

In the executive order, it states that bars are establishments that are engaged in selling alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption, while places like breweries can open because they have an ABC permit to produce alcoholic beverages for commercial sales off-site.

Lamb says, even when they closed their place to sit-down, he was able to find a source of income from providing craft beers to local stores.

Every establishment that falls under Phase 2 re-opening must abide by the same guidelines restaurants are following.

Lamb tells ABC11 he knows of local bars who are able to stay open because they reside on the same property and address of a neighboring restaurant.

Bar owner Wendy Harris expected the doors of her business to remain shut until she looked at the fine print.

"When I saw the words 'private club' in there, my feeling was jubilant, because I would be able to open," Harris said.

Harris is the owner of Crafty Beer, Wine, and Spirits in Raleigh. While her establishment is considered a bar, her ABC license defines it as a "private club", which is considered a "restaurant" in Phase 2.

This allowed Harris to open back up for dine-in on Friday evening.

"With what was written in there and our set up, that we would be able to do that effectively and safely," Harris said.

Harris says they are following all of the proper guidelines to ensure staff and employees are safe and healthy. She believes every bar should be given the chance to qualify to open back up.

Being someone who deals with an underlying health problem, Harris understands the risk of COVID-19 but says owners need a lifeline.

"Taking us to the end of Phase 2 will be 14 and a half weeks of being closed... that's almost not survivable," Harris added.

RELATED: 1 in 5 small businesses expected to permanently cave in due to the coronavirus crisis

Lamb says the next few weeks will be an indicator on customer engagement and if people feel safe coming back to breweries.

Meanwhile, Harris hopes the state will reconsider bars being closed sooner rather than later.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.