May 18, 2024

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North Carolina restaurants hit hard by new COVID-19 restrictions

Restaurants across North Carolina must close dining rooms at 10 p.m. and end on-site alcohol consumption at 9 p.m. beginning Friday, Dec. 11.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced the state will move backward into a modified stay-at-home order at 5 p.m. Dec. 11., which adds a curfew requirement from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The new restrictions will impact restaurants in the Charlotte region that are already facing capacity limits, additional cleaning protocol, and mask requirements.

Cooper explained in a news conference Tuesday why the state decided to implement the curfew hours.

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“The later in the evening you go, the larger some of these gatherings can be at some of these businesses,” Cooper said. “People become more uninhibited.”


“What we’re trying to do is to chip away at those times to slow the spread of the virus by trying to avoid these indoor gatherings,” Cooper continued.

Service at restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and wineries may continue for take-out and delivery after 10:00 p.m.

Red Rocks Cafe, which has three locations, started off 2020 on a high note.

“We started off gangbusters, and then everything changed on Saint Patrick’s Day,” said John Love, founder and co-owner of Red Rocks Cafe.

Love described the holiday season as the restaurant’s Super Bowl time of the year when sales are typically up 40%. This year, sales are down 45%.

The restaurant is still offering curbside takeout orders, in addition to boxed lunches and three-course dinner deals to make up for the loss in profits.

 “We just take it one day at a time, and we take it one shift at a time,” he said. “And then we try to do the best that we can given the circumstances.”

Cooper said in the news conference that if trends do not improve, there will be additional action involving indoor restaurant dining, entertainment facilities, or shopping and retail capacity.

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It’s a situation Love is worried about for his employees.

“I can see the fear in their eyes. They live paycheck to paycheck,” Love said. “We’re like a family, and we don’t want to play with their, play with their income and their security.”

Love said the restaurants go above and beyond to try to meet cleaning and sanitization protocol to keep their employees and customers safe.

“We really care about our community,” Love said. “We don’t want to do anything to hurt anybody, but we do want the opportunity to govern ourselves.”

FS Food Group, which includes Little Mama’s, YAFO Kitchen, Midwood Smokehouse, Paco’s Tacos & Tequila, Mama Ricotta’s Italian Restaurant, and Plate Perfect Catering, would typically be filling holiday office catering and party order this time of year.

Rémy Thurston, director of marketing for FS Food Group, said Plate Perfect Catering had a huge year in 2019.

“We were doing all the office parties Uptown,” Thurston said. “We were doing a lot of Christmas parties. We had a lot of winter weddings, and that’s all pretty much come to a halt.”

The business, like many others, has had to pivot its model to adapt to the restrictions it faces in 2020.

Plate Perfect Catering is now offering an individual boxed menu to cut down on sharing.

“We all know we’re on a cliff, and we’re just hoping that we can, you know, balance on the edge for as long as it takes to get out of this mess,” Thurston said.

Thurston said he has faith in the team with FS Food Group that they’ll be able to adapt if there are any other added restrictions or changes.

Their restaurants already did quite a bit of to-go food before the pandemic, Thurston said, and they’ve added group takeout menus to their websites for those that prefer that option.

“I think we see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Thurston said. “It’s just a matter of getting through the rest of the tunnel.”