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Bar owners struggling under Phase 3 restrictions

NC bars were allowed to reopen outdoors only with limited capacity in Phase 3, but bar owners say it isn't a long-term solution to help them stay open.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This week marks seven months that bars have been closed indoors in North Carolina. The state moved into Phase 3 on Oct. 2. Under this phase, bars are allowed to operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity or 100 guests, whichever is less.

RELATED: North Carolina enters Phase 3: Here's what that means.

Zack Medford, president of the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association (NCBATA), said at the time of the announcement, “This is a slap in the face.”

According to NCBATA, many bars in the state have no outdoor seating at all.

Sidelines Sports Bar and Billiards has been prepared for months to reopen indoors, even installing new seating and adding safety protocols.

Kevin Cooper and John Sinclair, the owners and managers of Sidelines and Bar Argon, said they quickly gathered the needed supplies to create a makeshift fence outside to reopen under the Phase 3 guidelines.

"It may look a little rushed, and it was, but we did what we could to get ready,” Cooper said.

To be in compliance with ALE laws, an orange fence now surrounds their chairs and tables outside.

"We were glad to finally get to be able to open, but we were very disappointed that our seating is limited to outside,” Cooper said. “I think we could do a lot better if we were able to keep people inside and monitor them and have them spread out inside."

Then rain and severe weather moved into the Charlotte area this weekend, prompting the owners to purchase tents to shield customers from the wet weather.

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"We did have some regulars, some loyal customers that came out and supported us, and they put up with the strange conditions just to be back at their favorite bar,” Cooper added.

Soon, the temperatures will be a concern.

“It’s going to get cooler as we go along, so there’s just going to be a lot more pressure on us to do what we normally do inside,” Cooper said. “Now we’ve got to do it outside.”

Sinclair said they are just happy to be able to be open in some capacity. Sidelines and Bar Argon are part of the LGBT+ community, he said, and it’s a comradery many have missed during the pandemic.

“When all the bars closed, they had nowhere to go,” Sinclair added. “So, they’re really glad to get back and see they’re friends and just get back to home.”

The current Executive Order is set to expire Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. It is unclear at this time if further restrictions will be lifted.

Cooper and Sinclair said they would like to be able to reopen indoors soon, hoping the conditions outside allow them to continue staying in business for the time being.

“Pray for good weather,” Sinclair said.