‘A long time coming’: Bar owners react to reopening indoors after almost a year

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Tinyz Tavern (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — After nearly a year of their doors being closed, Governor Roy Cooper announced bars could reopen at 30% capacity indoors starting Friday, also extending the alcohol curfew to 11 pm.

Though relieved, bar owners say they’re feeling mixed emotions after hearing the announcement.

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“Some relief, some happiness, some anger,” Tinyz Tavern Owner and NC Bar Owners Association Vice President Jason Ruth said.

After bar owners thought they would have the chance to reopen in May alongside restaurants, Ruth has been a prominent voice advocating for their right to open. He says the decision has been a long time coming.

“We’re still not lumped in with the other 6500 permit holders in the aspect that we’ve got to be treated differently with 30% vs. 50%,” Ruth said.

Ruth says his staff has been through extensive training and several meetings have been held on how to take proper COVID-19 precautions. After the announcement came that bars could reopen outdoors, he was able to open his 17th Street location. As for his staff at Gordon Road, they’ve been ready to get back to work since early on in the pandemic.

Though frustrated, Ruth says he’s thankful to finally be able to open the doors.

“We’ve survived this year on personal savings and sheer grit and now we’re ready to get back into business and be a part of the community again,” Ruth said.

Across the bridge in Wrightsville Beach, Red Dogs Co-Owner Anna Brothers shares the same mixed emotions.

“As much as we really want to be excited, it’s hard to be at this point. We’re so far in,” Brothers said. “So many people, we’ve watched some friends go under, and luckily we’ve been able to hang on and we’ve had an amazing landlord and have been able to kind of restructure things. It’s just…now we get to…break even?”

Anna and her husband, Andrew, own Red Dogs and the Dubliner. The Dubliner was able to open outdoors as well when the Governor moved the state into Phase 3.

She says now they’re figuring out if reopening Red Dogs is financially feasible given the restrictions and the cost of keeping the business running.

They’re leaning towards reopening to bring their staff back to work and to feel the energy of having their doors open again.

What she’s feeling following Wednesday’s announcement all comes down to wanting to be treated fairly.

“You can have two neighboring businesses and one is given this set of rules, one is completely shut down,” Brothers said. “Now one is given a completely different set of rules, and one is allowed to sorta kinda open. So it’s just, it’s just not fair.”

For now, they’re thankful to move forward with what they’ve got.

Additionally, Jason Ruth says many of these business owners are reopening with a lot of debt through no fault of their own. So he is hoping to see more relief for people in the industry as legislation continues to pass to help alleviate the financial burden the pandemic has caused.