Cooper vetoes bill that would allow NC bars to operate with outside seating

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper Friday vetoed a General Assembly bill that would have allowed bars to operate with outside seating.

Cooper’s executive order has kept bars closed during phase two of the state’s reopening plan.

The bill, which cleared the General Assembly last Thursday, would have allowed bars to seat people outside at 50 percent capacity of their indoor capacity or 100 people, whichever is less while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Also, restaurants would be able to seat more people outside, increasing their potential capacity. Under phase two, Cooper has limited inside dining at 50 percent capacity.

“What I’m trying to do is a give a lifeline to businesses that have been crippled from COVID and at the same time do it in a responsible manner,” Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance/Guilford), who supported the bill, said last week.

The bill cleared the Senate last Thursday morning by a margin of 42-5. Later in the day, the House approved it in a 65-53 vote, after Democrats raised a variety of concerns about the proposal.

Cooper raised concerns about the bill as well during a press conference later that day, saying it could “hurt public health.”

“And on a day when we’re seeing some of our highest numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, the Senate wants to open bars,” Cooper said.

With Cooper’s veto, it would take a three-fifths majority of members who are present and voting to override that veto. While it passed by a wide margin in the Senate, it did not get three-fifths support in the House Thursday.

Cooper released this statement about the bill after his veto: “State and local government leaders must be able to act quickly during the COVID-19 emergency to prevent a surge in cases that could overwhelm hospitals and harm the public. House Bill 536 would limit the ability of leaders to respond quickly to COVID-19 and hamper the health and safety of every North Carolinian.”

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