N.C. House passes outdoor seating bill, sends to Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper briefs media at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via NC Dept of Public Safety

RALEIGH – The N.C. House of Representatives approved the bill today to allow safe outdoor seating for dining and beverage service in North Carolina at 50% of each establishment’s total maximum occupancy.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s current executive order allows restaurants to operate indoors or outdoors at 50% capacity, but prohibits other establishments from operating under the same rules.

The bill, passed earlier by the N.C. Senate, treats all beverage and dining service establishments the same and allows them to operate at 50% of total capacity.

“This legislation provides equity for North Carolina businesses that are hardest-hit by the economic shutdown and will deliver revenue for desperate small businesses by allowing safe outdoor seating options,” Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) said.

“We join our colleagues across the General Assembly urging Gov. Cooper to sign this legislation immediately to offer a lifeline to thousands of businesses across North Carolina through a safe, commonsense policy that is supported by science and data,” state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) said Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest added “I commend the bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly for passing a bill that would allow bars to serve customers in outdoor dining areas just like restaurants. Unless the Cooper administration can provide specific science and data that proves sitting outside a bar is more dangerous than siting outside a restaurant, this should become law – letting more North Carolinians get back to work.” 

At Thursday’s dial-in media availability, Gov. Cooper sounded dismissive of the proposal. Cooper said “we’re six days into phase two and on a day when we’re seeing some of our highest numbers of hospitalizations and death, the senate wants to open bars.”