County officials will implement a late-night alcohol sales ban. Here’s how it could work

County officials will implement a late-night alcohol sales ban. Here’s how it could work
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County and city leaders are drafting an order that prohibits alcohol sales in restaurants after 10 p.m. This is the latest effort by local leaders to flatten the curve as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rise.

In an email sent to county commissioners Wednesday morning, Mecklenburg County manager Dena Diorio said the county’s policy group would ban late-night alcohol sales. The ban applies to Charlotte, Davidson, Matthews, Pineville, and Mint Hill. As of right now local leaders in Cornelius, Huntersville, and Pineville have decided not to sign on.

The ban’s start date hasn’t been decided. Diorio says the ban will likely last for the duration of phase two, which will be in place at least until August 7.


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Why?: Preventing restaurants and breweries from selling alcohol after a certain time will likely reduce late-night crowds, and thus allow for more social distancing and decrease the chance of spreading COVID-19.

In Charlotte, daily cases and hospitalizations have steadily increased since May. The percent positive has also been increasing, as of July 8 it’s 11.4 percent. During a press conference on July 9, state officials called Charlotte “an area of concern.

Since North Carolina restaurants and breweries reopened in May, videos showing long lines outside of breweries, crowded patios, and packed dance floors have circulated online.

Ink N Ivy and Explict Lounge are the latest to be called out for allowing customers to crowd together in small spaces with little to no social distancing.

Ink N Ivy didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment. Explict Lounge sent a statement saying in part:

“As we are learning to adapt to “the new norm” in regards to social distancing restrictions and adhering to all of the guidelines our goal is to continuously improve throughout this learning process. This week we will be collaborating with local officials, law enforcement, and health officials to tighten up on opportunities that have presented themselves. The reality is that we feel targeted and criticized by having multiple false complaints and circulated videos from past events making it look as though we’re insensitive to COVID-19, which we are not.”

A majority of Mecklenburg County’s coronavirus cases — three out of every four case — is in the 20-59 age group. A late-night alcohol sale ban could reduce crowding, especially within this age group.

ink n ivy

Ink N Ivy in Uptown has been in the center of controversy this week as a video circulated on the Internet of a crowded patio.

Economic impact: Restaurants are already in financial trouble after months of closing for dine-in service. The ban could hurt already struggling businesses.

[Related Agenda stories: What it’s like to be a server during the coronavirus pandemic, Coronavirus is ‘uncharted territory’ for Charlotte restaurants]

Bans elsewhere: In South Carolina, which recently implemented a late-night alcohol sales ban at 11 p.m., the statewide percentage of positive coronavirus cases is 21.2 precent, almost double Mecklenburg County’s. Charlotte officials have voiced concern for neighboring South Carolina’s rising case count and looser restrictions.

S.C. Governor Henry McMaster said the new order is intended to keep people safe.

“We know that young adults who are rapidly contracting the virus and spreading it into our communities frequently congregate in late-night atmospheres which simply are not conducive to stopping its continued transmission,” McMaster said.

Orange County (NC) has also prohibited late-night alcohol sales, starting at 10 p.m.

How it could work: In both places the order only applies to restaurants and bars — grocery stores, ABC stores, and other alcohol sellers are exempt. Establishments that ignore the mandate are in danger of losing their liquor licenses.

Feature photo: Cocktails from O-Ku in South End/Agenda archive

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