RALEIGH, N.C. — State lawmakers voted Thursday to allow bars to reopen in outdoor spaces, overriding Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order that has closed them since March.
Legislation would allow bars to serve patrons in outdoor spaces, permanent or temporary, at 50 percent of the capacity of their indoor area, with social distancing guidelines from the CDC and the state Department of Health and Human Services.
House Bill 536 would also allow restaurants to set up temporary outdoor spaces to serve customers in the same way. Restaurants are currently limited to 50 percent of their capacity, and the outdoor seating could bring them up to 100 percent, or close to it.
The measure would be in effect until Oct 31 or until the executive order is lifted.
Under Cooper's Phase 2 executive order, bars are not allowed to reopen until Phase 3, which could be several weeks away.
Right now, Gov. Cooper permits restaurants to operate indoors or outdoors at 50 percent capacity but prohibits bars from operating under the same rules.
Sen. Gunn's bill would treat bars and restaurants the same, and allow them to operate outdoors at 50 percent of total capacity.
Sen. Gunn said, "My bill treats restaurants and bars the same, and it follows the lead of other jurisdictions by allowing safe outdoor seating options. This is a lifeline to a dying industry."