Curfew, not protests, worry residents and businesses in Elizabeth City

North Carolina

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) – Many local businesses say the 8 p.m. curfew is scaring away customers and even some workers.

Protests over the last week have remained relatively peaceful in Elizabeth City, but businesses say there’s still a growing hesitancy from the community to come downtown.

Jim Nye, the owner of Hoppin’ Johnz on Colonial Avenue, says the curfew isn’t working for its intended purpose and it’s killing many businesses like his.

“Business has been off but survivable,” he said. “The recently placed 8 o’clock curfew is a stake in our heart.”

The recent unrest has also made some of his employees hesitant to come in.

 “I’ve got some young teenagers that work for me,” he said. “Their parents won’t let them come to work cause they’re fearful of their safety. And it’s just, safety has not been a problem.”

Junior Gonzalez, who owns Big Boss Burritos down the block, says these businesses downtown need the community’s support now more than ever.

“I just wanna let everybody know that don’t be afraid to come into Elizabeth City downtown because everything has been so peaceful, everything is looking to be under control,” said Gonzalez. “I just want to invite everybody in the community to come and support local business downtown.”

Some businesses we spoke to say they feel the city council overreacted by implementing the curfew, but say local police have been helpful with addressing their concerns.

“[Elizabeth City Police Chief Buffaloe] has been very open with communication,” said Nye. “I’ll text him a question and I’ll get a phone call in two minutes. He’s just tremendous. Our local people are good. Now the Sheriff’s Department is in a little bit of hot water right now, but I think we should let that play out.”

Nye says his biggest concern is how long public hesitancy to come downtown will last.

“I love my community”

“Mi casa es su casa”, you don’t have to know Spanish to know the welcoming sentiment that phrase carries. 

With some people being more hesitant to come downtown because of recent protests, Junior Gonzalez says he wants people to know his door is always open.

“My goal is to help the community though, I’m all the way involved with the community,” he said. “I love my community though.”

Gonzalez owns Big Boss Burritos on Poindexter Street. He’s been a staple as the only Latino-owned restaurant in downtown Elizabeth City — with his phone off the hook and customers constantly flowing in. 

“I opened this business for the community,” he said. “I started with a food truck and the community, you know, told me to open a restaurant so that’s what I did. I do whatever the community wants.”

As many in the community remain on edge because of protests, he wants to calm concerns about visiting downtown.

“Everything is under control, I mean everything looks so very peaceful,” he said. “Our community, we are very strong. We work together. So, it’s only peace and love in here. We’re trying to help each other.”

The curfew hasn’t impacted him much and business has been good.

He just wants people to know he’s here, his door is open, and he’s ready to help in any way he can.

Gonzalez says he wants to thank the local community here for all the support he’s received, but encourages everyone to spread the love around to other businesses here.

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