Gov. Roy Cooper provides latest coronavirus update during a press conference in Raleigh on March 17, 2020. Image screen grab

Governor Roy Cooper has ordered restaurants and bars throughout the state to cease dine-in services, effective 5 p.m on Tuesday.

It’s the latest attempt to limit large social gatherings and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Businesses can continue offering take-out and delivery services.

“This will be a hardship not only for the restaurants and their owners, but also on their customers who find comfort at their chairs and tables. It will also be a hardship for the employees who depend on them for their jobs,” Cooper said during a press conference in Raleigh.

On Saturday, the governor issued an executive order restricting gatherings of 100 people or more, but it excluded restaurants and bars. Cooper says Tuesday’s order addressed those businesses that failed to follow guidelines in keeping people separated. Recommendations suggest a minimum distance of six feet apart. 

There were 40 cases of COVID-19 reported statewide as of Tuesday afternoon. Mecklenburg County has 11 presumptive positive cases, according to the county’s website.

Black Business Owners of Charlotte founder Cathay Dawkins fears that some Black-owned businesses won’t be able to survive the restrictions put in place.

“This is added economic stress for businesses that were already on a path that was fragile,” he told QCity Metro. “It’s vital that the community understands what we’re facing and that we put as many resources as we can into Black businesses. We’re concerned that even more doors may close.”

Greg Collier, chef and co-owner of Leah & Louise restaurant, said it’s scary and uncertain for everyone right now, not just small business owners.

Collier and wife Subrina were set to open the modern-day juke joint on Friday at Camp North End. They have postponed the grand opening for a date to be determined.

“We’re doing what we can to make sure we’re straight, to make sure our employees are taken care of, and we’ll go from there.”

Relaxed rules to ease hardships

Given the likely effect on restaurant workers, Cooper’s order includes a provision that lowers the bar for North Carolina residents filing unemployment claims.

First, it removes the one-week waiting period required to apply for unemployment benefits. It also removes the requirement that a person applying for benefits be actively seeking work.

The order also extends unemployment benefits to workers who, in certain cases, have their hours reduced because of COVID-19.

Unemployed residents will be allowed to apply for benefits by phone or online, and employers will not be on the hook for unemployment benefits paid as a direct result of COVID-19 claims.

 At a time when many employers are closed and social-distancing guidelines are in effect, Cooper said these measures were needed.

“I recognize that this decision (to limit restaurant hours) will cost people their jobs,” he said. “So this order also brings them some relief.”

Cooper said he anticipates additional help for both workers and employers from the federal government.”

Glenn Burkins contributed to this story.

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Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a...