CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Restaurants across North Carolina are preparing to open their dining rooms to customers for the first time in over two months as Governor Roy Cooper is expected to announce Wednesday that the state will begin Phase 2 of his coronavirus reopening plan this week.
According to the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA), the Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance as part of the Phase 2 reopening procedure. A spokesperson for the NCRLA confirmed to WCNC Charlotte they anticipate Cooper to make the announcement Wednesday that Phase 2 will begin on Friday, May 22.
Governor Cooper and the state COVID-19 task force have a press conference scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday.
5/20/20 UPDATE: North Carolina to enter Phase 2 reopening Friday
South Carolina restaurants reopened to dine-in customers on May 11. Close-contact businesses, such as nail salons and barbershops, opened on May 18. Those same types of businesses will be allowed to open with reduced capacity in North Carolina when Phase 2 begins.
Restaurants have been closed for dine-in guests since Cooper issued his executive order on March 17. They have been allowed to operate with take-out and delivery orders only. A Lincoln County restaurant was issued a citation Monday for allowing dine-in customers. The owner, who is the chair of the county board, says he has no plans to close his dining room.
Under the guidance, restaurants will be REQUIRED to:
- Ensure social distancing by arranging tables and seating to achieve at least six feet of separation between parties for indoor and outdoor seating.
- Each group of people sitting at a counter should be separated by six feet.
- No more than 50% of maximum occupancy as stated by the fire capacity. Restaurants may permit up to 12 people per 1,000 feet if there is not a fire code number available.
- Post the reduced "Emergency Maximum Capacity" in an easy to see place.
- Post signs reminding people about social distancing (staying at least six feet away from others) and "Knowing your W's"
- Mark six feet of spacing in lines along high-traffic areas for customers, such as cash registers and any place where customers wait to be seated.
DHHS guidance for restaurants offers multiple recommendations, as well, including allowing no more than six people at a single table unless they are a family from the same home, not using shared tables for multiple parties, and installing physical barriers in areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain.