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Asheville bar, restaurant owners optimistic as state eases COVID-19 restrictions

Asheville bar, restaurant owners optimistic as state eases COVID-19 restrictions
Gov. Roy Cooper said, starting Friday, the state will ease gathering and occupancy restrictions and end its 10 p.m. statewide curfew. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

People in the service industry are excited about what the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina will mean for business.

The two main things people are excited about are alcohol sales being pushed back to 11 p.m. and bars being able to open indoors at 30% capacity.

After almost a year of bad news, Gov. Roy Cooper ended Wednesday on a good note for those whose livelihoods have been deeply impacted by the pandemic.

“It is very stressful, particularly right now, waiting for the next check from the government,” Asheville musician George Trouble said.

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He said he hopes this means he’ll be able to start touring again. He used to travel, teaching art history at colleges. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, he’s only gotten one gig.

“It sort of stopped everything,” he said.

For bars like the Burger Bar, Friday will be the first time in almost a year they’re allowed to welcome people inside.

The Burger Bar has relied on its patio for outdoor sales. However, owner Crystal Capettini said the business was barely making $200 a day in sales because of the 9 p.m. alcohol curfew.

“I pretty much started crying,” Capettini said when she first heard the news.

She said it’s been two weeks shy of a full year since the pandemic hit her business.

“It really does help, and I’m happy with it being 30 percent. I’d rather have a small group of well behaved respectful customers than a house full of idiots,” she said.

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After a rough winter, business and weather wise, restaurants are eager for the changes, too.

“It’s just a relief to be able to be open longer, serve guests at a later time and we’re delighted,” said Jane Anderson, the executive director for the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association.

Eric Scheffer, owner of Jettie Rae’s and Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, thinks easing restrictions will boost business by 10 to 15%.

“Oh my god, it’s wonderful,” he said.

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Restaurant and bar owners said it’s still so important to follow the three Ws to keep COVID-19 numbers down with the hopes that maybe even more good things are to come.

“I’m hoping for spring, maybe early summer, that we can get to 60%, maybe 65% inside, maybe, as people start to feel more comfortable,” Scheffer said.

Restaurant owners said this should serve as another reminder to support local businesses because they still need help.

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