GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Businesses in Gaston County were faced with the choice of reopening under the county’s order or staying closed under the state order on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Gaston County Board of Commissioners announced it supports the reopening of businesses and houses of worship throughout Gaston County as long as they adhere to strict social distancing practices, follow all cleaning and disinfection requirements, and abide by all maximum capacity restrictions required by local and state authorities.
However, the order Gaston County leaders signed states, “Gaston County residents and businesses are still subject to and restricted by any and all of the Governor’s executive orders unless and until they expire or are otherwise replaced, rescinded, or eliminated.
The North Carolina stay-at-home order currently does not expire until May 8.
Hours after issuing the order, Gaston County Government clarified in a statement that states, “From a function standpoint, Gaston County Government will continue to follow all state laws, including Gov. Cooper’s executive order. At no point would county leadership ask its staff or county residents to break the law.”
However, the statement went on to say, “In all of this, Gaston County’s Board of Commissioners want to make clear its support for the residents of our county to get back to work.
“In spite of the Governor’s order, we support and will stand with those that want to open their businesses and go to work,” Chairman Tracy Philbeck said.
Enzo’s Pizza in Gastonia was one of the businesses that was preparing to open at 5 p.m. Wednesday under the Gaston County order until a police officer stopped by the restaurant Wednesday afternoon.
“Basically we would be subject to, you know, penalties if we went ahead and opened,” said Michelle Hall, a restaurant employee. “We could do what we want but, you know, we'd have to…the consequences would be there."
The restaurant decided to continue doing take-out orders as it has been doing for more than a month.
"We'd love to go back to being normal and having our customers sit down and eat, and I think there's just a lot of confusion right now with them releasing that statement yesterday,” Hall said.
In Cherryville, De Ja Vu Consignment decided to open its doors Thursday, with signs outside welcoming customers inside.
“They were happy to see that I had a sign that said open, and that they could come in,” said Alice Sisk, president of De Ja Vu Consignment.
The store has lost 75 percent of its business over the last month and a half, she said and has had to rely mostly on online sales.
Sisk said she has applied for funding but hasn’t received any help. She has been in business in downtown Cherryville for 13 years and wants to stay in business beyond this pandemic.
When she heard Philbeck announce his support for business reopening with social distancing and sanitizing protocol, she decided it was time to get back to normal business.
“I don't know why we can't open if we do have the social distancing,” Sisk said. “Like, I'm not going to allow but like five people in my store. If it gets more, I'll make them wait outside."
The mayors of the municipalities in Gaston County issued a statement Wednesday saying, “We want to emphasize that all businesses and residents of our cities and Gaston County are required to comply with the Orders issued by Governor Roy Cooper until those orders expire on Friday, May 8, 2020.”
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