CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolinians have mixed reactions of Gov. Roy Cooper’s new executive order allowing to-go cocktails.
The order aims to give a boost to restaurants and bars struggling amid the pandemic.
Vincent Chirico, who owns Idlewild Cocktail bar in Charlotte, is supportive of the idea.
With North Carolina’s 10 p.m. curfew, his bar is open for fewer hours.
“We used to be open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. every night back before COVID, so this is less than half the time we had for service,” Chirico says.
To-go cocktails will allow bars and restaurants to remain open from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. for carry out and delivery of cocktails.
Chirico plans to try it out.
“This definitely helps us recoup a lot of those lost sales,” Chirico says.
However, he says he needs to figure out how to do it properly. For instance, each mixed drink must have a seal that needs to be broken to open its container.
A bill to allow to-go cocktails failed to pass in the State Legislature last spring. The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association has been advocating for it ever since.
NCRLA President and CEO Lynn Minges says it will make a difference.
"We think this is just a great new measure, a great way of allowing us to serve customers, but also do that responsibly and safely,” Minges says.
Rev. Mark Creech, who is the executive director of the public policy organization called Christian Action League, doesn’t agree with the order.
"I believe that if the governor really wants to help an ailing hospitality industry, then he ought to lift these draconian lockdown restrictions on businesses and allow them to open up,” Creech says.
He also says allowing carryout and delivery of mixed beverages could be dangerous, even with the proper safeguards in place.
"You have a scenario there where people have a container that actually can be open while they're inside the car. You have a situation in which underage drinkers can also manipulate this system, “ Creech says.
Chirico disagrees with that assessment.
"I think that is a little presumptuous. I mean what's stopping someone from drinking the bottle of wine they bought at a wine store or a beer they picked at bottle shop in the car? It's no different than to-go cocktails,” Chirico says.
The cocktail bar owner plans to start to-go cocktails on Saturday.
"We're hoping it's going to be good for us. And we're going to take advantage of it anyway, if not to make money, just to stay relevant,” Chirico says.
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are reviewing the policy.
Sheriff Garry McFadden says he has some questions about the order.
“What are we classifying that as a sealed container? So these are the gray areas. We're not going to go out and looking for these things, but of course, if we come across these violations or assumed violations, we're going to have a discussion about it,” McFadden says.
To-go cocktails will be legal in North Carolina through Jan. 31, unless the executive order is extended. The order allows a 21-year-olds to order one mixed beverage to go. Customers must show their ID when they receive beverage.