WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association (NCBATA) formed in response to Governor Cooper excluding those businesses from reopening during Phase Two.
NCBATA President Zack Medford owns Coglin’s, retro bars located in Wilmington and Raleigh.
Medford says forming the group has been a plan for years now, but the governor’s order was the driving force to create the group now.
He says the group is advocating for the needs of these businesses.
“It’s increasingly clear that bars and taverns need their own seat at the table,” Medford said. “There are so many regulations that effect us negatively and right now we haven’t had anyone advocating for us.”
Since forming on May 20 the group has more than 700 members and is gearing up to file a lawsuit that would allow them to be treated equally under Executive Order 141.
“As it stands, it is currently safe to drink in a restaurant, safe to drink a beer in a brewery, or a glass of wine in a winery, or a cocktail in a distillery,” Medford said. “But for some reason, it’s still illegal for us to open our bars and serve that same drink.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the suit has 60 co-plaintiffs of bar and tavern owners across the state.
Tinyz Tavern in Wilmington is one of them.
Co-Owners Matt Hall and Jason Ruth say they are incredibly happy for their brothers and sisters in hospitality, but they deserve the same right to open.
“Why would our specific bar because we don’t serve 30% in food be more of a health risk than a bar serving the same drinks, the same alcohol that we serve, but happens to serve chicken wings or pizza or whatever the case?” Ruth asked.
Ruth says their business has always been essential for their livelihoods.
“For us, everything is essential. This business is essential for our employees and they’re essential to us. There was no non-essential,” he said.
“And our regulars,” Hall added. “We’ve been doing this for 15 years and our regulars are our family. They want to get back with that community that we’ve developed, as well as many of the other small bars.”
Ruth says the bottom line is owners and employees are struggling.
“It’s easy to say gyms aren’t essential, bars aren’t essential but we are struggling. We’re all struggling here,” Ruth said. “We put our life’s blood, sweat, and tears into these places and opening these places. And we want to follow the same safety protocols to keep our customers and staff safe. We need to reopen.”
NCBATA is planning on filing the lawsuit Friday morning in Raleigh.
Medford says he expects the number of co-plaintiffs to rise before the suit is filed.