Bar owners say they're ready to file lawsuit to get their businesses reopened

Bar owners across the state are coming together to call on Gov. Roy Cooper to let them reopen.

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Kirsten Gutiérrez
, WRAL reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — Bar owners across the state are coming together to call on Gov. Roy Cooper to let them reopen.
Those owners said they don't believe the Phase 2 restrictions for reopening the state after the coronavirus pandemic are fair. They also believe they should be given a chance to follow the same guidelines as restaurants.
Zack Medford
“Safety needs to be the number one priority, but ultimately, we need to get back to work if it’s safe to do so," said Zack Medford, North Carolina Bar & Tavern Association Board President and owner of Isaac Hunter’s Tavern in Raleigh.
Medford believes it’s time for bars that are able to properly social distance to get back to work.

“As it stands, we have more than 80 people out of work that work for our bars, and those folks deserve to come back to work just like any employee of the restaurant does," Medford said. "We need to get them back to work. If it’s safe to do it for restaurants, then it’s safe to do it for bars.”

Medford owns five bars and represents more than 100 bars across the state, all who seem to have the same pressing question.

“For us we want to ask the governor’s office why is it any less safe for someone to come into Isaac Hunter’s Tavern and drink a beer just because we don’t serve food or brew beer on site," Medford said. "If the breweries are open, restaurants are open, distilleries, wineries then bars need to be open, too. We need to be held to the exact same standards.”

The state moved into Phase 2 last Friday. Bars were left off that list.

“Look at all of our room here," said Tony Basford, who owns PLUS Dueling Piano Bar in Raleigh. "This building is about 8,300 square feet. We hold tons and tons of people. We are bigger than most restaurants.

"So we would be able to put someone here and then further away have this one blocked off and then put another table right here.”

Basford said he’s lost more than half a million dollars so far.

"I just say allow the people that can operate within the laws and within the rules that are given, let us do that," Basford said. "If we can follow those directions allow us to earn an income.”

While they are happy for the establishments now open, bar owners want a chance to get back on their feet and will do whatever it takes.

“We’d love for the governor to reconsider treating bars differently than restaurants, breweries and distilleries, but ultimately, if we can’t get anywhere our only answers are going to be in the courts," Medford said.

Medford said the bar owners have been in contact with a lawyer but hope to hear back from the governor soon.