Beginning Thursday, late-night alcohol sales will be limited in parts of Mecklenburg County to help slow the spread of Covid-19, County Manager Dena Diorio said in a Wednesday news conference.
The restrictions prohibit alcohol sales after 11 p.m. in unincorporated parts of Mecklenburg County, the city of Charlotte, and in the towns of Davidson, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville, Diorio said. Huntersville and Cornelius are not participating in the ban.
County officials say the move will deter overcrowding around bars and restaurants and reduce Covid-19 exposure in venues where drinking alcohol may lower a person’s inhibitions. She cited several recent videos on social media showing crowded bars and restaurants where customers were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
- Alcohol can not be sold from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. in restaurants and private clubs. Restaurants that serve alcohol can only offer takeout or delivery after 11. Restaurants that don’t serve alcohol can stay open for on-site consumption.
- Restaurants, breweries, wine shops, private clubs, bars, and any other business can’t sell alcohol for onsite consumption between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and can’t provide onsite outdoor table service for food or alcoholic beverages between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
- Other changes require businesses to keep patrons from sitting or standing at bars and ban customers from touching shared surfaces such as bar tops and games such as pool tables, darts, pinball machines, etc.
- All outdoor activities, gatherings, or events of more than 25 people are prohibited. (Worship services, religious and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and gatherings for health and safety, for work, to obtain food, or to obtain government services are exempt.)
Diorio said violations of the order can be punishable as Class 2 misdemeanors.
The ban will run concurrent with Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 2 order, so the restrictions will be in place until at least Aug. 7.
On Monday, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin instituted similar restrictions, banning alcohol sales from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. in bars, restaurants and grocery stores, starting today. Earlier this month, Orange County, North Carolina, and the state of South Carolina took similar steps to slow the uptick in Covid-19 cases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield, in a recent visit with county officials, said he supports the curbs on businesses that tend to facilitate irresponsible behavior, saying he’s a “strong advocate” of closing bars and limiting patrons in restaurants to allow for social distancing.