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Local restaurant already struggling worries about effects of alcohol order

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The governor’s order to halt the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m. is effective Friday. And while a significant countywide impact on the economy isn’t anticipated, it will hurt one local restaurant already operating at 50% capacity.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday signed an executive order curbing alcohol sales at restaurants after 11 p.m. in an effort to discourage late-night gatherings, particularly as cases continue to rise among young people and college students return to school soon. The order doesn’t apply to grocery stores or convenience stores that sell alcohol.

James Meacham, the head of the county’s tourism development authority, said the county isn’t anticipating a large financial impact across the county, but it will impact restaurants with bars, adding that those restaurants have been “filling gaps” in the hospitality industry since bars haven’t been able to reopen yet.

Meacham said the pandemic has caused some restaurants to close earlier than they did before the pandemic, with 10 p.m. being the current typical time local restaurants close.

Nonetheless, halting the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m. will be “another financial challenge” for the county in its economic recovery. And one restaurant owner, in particular, said the order will hurt his business.

Louie Mourouzidis, owner of DJ’s Restaurant, said alcohol sales, particularly on the weekends, provide significant revenue for the restaurant. He said the order doesn’t make sense and that it was “ridiculous,” particularly after he recently spent $100,000 in renovations and had to shut down for three months due to the pandemic. That’s on top of the fact that he’s only allowed to operate at 50% capacity. And with the reduced capacity, he said, restaurant owners are “lucky” if they break even with sales.

DJ’s, located at 1502 W. Innes St., is open until midnight on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant also provides live music and entertainment, with some musicians from across the nation. July 25 was the first weekend since the pandemic that the restaurant had live music, and Mourouzidis said “it went excellent.” Currently, he can allow 90 customers outside and 85 inside.

But Mourouzidis said the alcohol order “makes no sense” because the “virus doesn’t recognize if it’s 11 or 10:30 p.m.”

For now, it’s “business as usual,” he said, until he figures out how the order will be implemented and what effect it will have on the restaurant.

Go Burrito is another restaurant that has served alcohol after 11 p.m. Owner Mikey Wetzel, who recently opened a new restaurant on the lake, did not immediately respond to a Post request.

The order stopping some alcohol sales comes as active cases in Rowan County largely hover in the same range but as people have increasingly died outside of nursing homes.

An additional person not associated with a congregate care facility on Wednesday was reported dead after testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 49 deaths. All but 12 deaths have come from congregate care facilities, with 21 from the Citadel, 15 from the N.C. State Veterans Home and one death at Liberty Commons. The average age among the deceased is 81.

While the total amount of cases grew by 23 on Wednesday, the number of currently positive cases and recoveries significantly improved. Currently positive cases dropped by 37 and are now at 266. Recoveries rose by 59 and are now at 1,622 people. A total of 10,968 tests have been reported to the county.

Active hospitalizations attributed to COVID-19 were at 12 on Wednesday.

Across the state, 117,850 people have contracted COVID-19 after 1.69 million completed tests, for a rate of 7%. Hospitalizations are now at 1,291 across the state, and 1,865 people have died.

In other local COVID-19 statistics:

  • Cases at congregate care facilities remains at 240.
  • COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect Hispanic residents of the county as 29.69%, or 575 cases, make up the total cases despite Hispanic residents only comprising less than 10% of the county’s population. A total of 1,060 white residents have tested positive, along with 255 Black residents, five Asian residents, five American Indian/Alaskan Native residents and one Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander resident. A total of 330 cases are categorized “unknown,” while 281 are other.
  • The average age of positive cases is at 41.9, with a plurality of cases among those aged 18-35, at 622. Residents aged 36-50 comprise 476 cases, while 342 are among the 51-64 age group and 298 are among those older than 65. The number of cases among children continues to rise and is now at 199.
  • A total of 984 women comprise the total number of cases, followed closely by 953 among men.
  • Zip code 28147 remains the area with the most cases at 609, followed by 419 cases among the 28144 area and 287 cases among the 28146 area.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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