Early last call: Orange County to halt alcohol sales at 10 pm during pandemic
Posted July 9, 2020 3:17 p.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2020 6:21 p.m. EDT
Hillsborough, N.C. — Orange County officials plan to prohibit businesses from selling alcohol after 10 p.m. during the pandemic to curb late-night gatherings where coronavirus could spread.
Restaurants also will be required to close their dining rooms at 10 p.m., and no off-site table service will be allowed either, although restaurants can continue to fill takeout and delivery orders after that time.
The changes, which take effect Friday, target on-site consumption of alcohol and don't affect supermarkets that sell beer and wine and breweries that sell six-packs and cases of beer to go, officials said. State-run liquor stores close at 9 p.m. and also aren't affected.
"These additional measures will help protect our community by reducing group settings where the virus can easily spread," Penny Rich, chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement. "We must be vigilant in practicing physical distancing and wearing masks. It is more important than ever that we look out for each other."
Coronavirus cases in the county have tripled since Memorial Day, Rich said, and county officials said they had gotten complaints about University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students partying late into the night at some locations.
"I've definitely heard that there have been a lot of students going out and going out and drinking and stuff like that," said Cheyenne Brown, a rising senior at UNC-Chapel Hill.
On Wednesday, the school said 37 student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff have tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the football team to halt its voluntary workouts for at least a week.
"From a public health standpoint, I think it sends the message that they don’t want college students to come back to campus and then plan on partying out at restaurants and bars," said Bret Oliverio, owner of Sup Dogs on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, "and I understand it."
Still, Oliverio said he isn't happy about the de facto curfew.
"Things are tough on the restaurant industry as a whole, and this sort of just makes it even tougher," he said. "Late night is a big money maker for us. Based on the fact that almost everything else is closed, we stayed pretty steady between 10 p.m. and midnight. So, it will definitely be a revenue hit."