By Steve Woodward
On St. Patrick’s Day last Tuesday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order that imposes sweeping economic oppression on thousands of members of our community, particularly owners and employees who earn a living within the Sandhills’ thriving restaurant and bar scene. In a matter of days, restaurant owners witnessed a stunning decline in sales as it became immediately evident that take-out and delivery — “allowed” by Democrat dictator Cooper — could not sustain their businesses. Tips? Dead. Alcohol sales? Gone. Average dollar amount per order? Way down. The executive order undoubtedly sent locals dashing to supermarkets to stock up on food and beverage to be consumed at home as many self-quarantine while watching COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.
Soon to follow came the layoffs. Dozens at a time. Entire staffs, including longtime employees. It is devastating to drive around town to witness the empty parking lots. Some of the restaurants announcing modified take-out and delivery menus soon shut that down, too, and closed altogether. And many never will re-open unless the Governor lifts his disastrous order and acknowledges that dining customers and restaurant operators will do what they would have done in the first place, self-regulate.
A coalition formed by Chef Mark Elliott, founder of Elliott’s on Linden, which observed its 20th anniversary last year, launched an electronic petition. An accompanying letter, signed by 59 area restaurant and bar owners, managers and employees, warns that many operators will face bankruptcy in 30 days. It asks Cooper to allow businesses to re-open immediately, operating at half-capacity to limit crowd sizes. Failing that, it asks for complete compensation of lost wages, not merely pre-existent unemployment payments. It calls for deferrals of loan payments, tax payments, liquor license payments and rent.
No one will know until months have passed if COVID-19 precautions were effective. But we do know that media-driven fear mongering has been highly effective. And, we know that real people are watching their livelihoods vanish and their dreams die in real time. These are some of the many stories posted to a new Facebook Group, which citizens can join by searching Facebook for #SaveOurServiceIndustry:
“My name is Michael Carey. After 28 (years) I retired from the Army and opened Hatchet Brewing Company (in Southern Pines) with a fellow Veteran and friend Greg Walker. We opened on 02 November 2019 and we were forced to close on 17 March 2020. At the time we had to release all 6 staff members. Obviously, we have alot of loans, costs, and payroll and ask that somehow we are ALL, small business owners, given a grace period to where our loans are excused and costs are covered. … Saying we are all upset, overwhelmed, stressed, angry and anxious are all understatements!”
From Chef Elliott: “I have laid off approximately 80 personnel. There are thousands of restaurant owners like me in North Carolina and beyond. We need to hear from our Governor, Roy Cooper. … At present our employees get unemployment (an entitlement already in place) and no jobs prospects if I’m bankrupt. To date Roy Cooper has allowed us to file our sales tax late with interest and pay our liquor licenses in June; it’s just not enough. Please send us meaningful lifelines so we can confidently rebuild our industry.”
“My name is Tony Cross. I own and operate Reverie Cocktails out of Southern Pines, NC. We’re the first in the country to batch, carbonate, and deliver kegs of cocktails for businesses to pour on draught — local and out of town/state. We’ve been fortunate enough to be represented everywhere from dive bars to country clubs. Now that they’re all closed, we can not provide a product that is our main source of income.”
“Hola, my name is Sammy and I’ve been a server/bartender at the Pinecrest Inn for the past 17 (years). I’m a single father of three girls, ages 6, 7 and 15. I have dedicated myself to the Pinecrest Inn because of my love for the owners. This place is a staple in Pinehurst and my fear is watching (it) close its doors for good because of the current, unfortunate pandemic the world is facing. I just purchased a home with closing due at the end of this month.”
From Luke Black: “I have been in the food business my whole life and watched my mom, Bonnie Chriscoe Black, run/own The Market Place Restaurant for nearly 30 years, and I recently bought and took over ownership 1/1/2020 after working with her for years. She has (taught) me everything I know but no one can teach how to get through something devastating like this. I am praying everyday for every small business and restaurant and their owners and staff that we all make it through this.”
Gov. Cooper ordered apocalypse. As local citizens, we can fight this by ordering take-out. Often.