Alcohol sales hours at restaurants, breweries and distilleries in North Carolina will have a curfew starting Friday night.
Governor Roy Cooper announced an executive order Tuesday imposing the restriction to discourage late-night gatherings where health officials say social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 isn't happening.
Sales will have to end at 11 p.m. instead of the normal 2 a.m. The order doesn’t apply to retailers like grocery or convenience stores that sell beer and wine on shelves.
Standalone bars have remained shuttered since March under Cooper’s orders and continue to be. Restaurants have been allowed since late May to reopen their dining areas at partial capacity, but can operate their own adjoining bar areas. Cooper's order also doesn’t affect the government-run Alcoholic Beverage Control liquor stores, which already must close by 9 p.m.
“We know that the ‘bar scene’ has been a place where we have seen increased transmission. It’s happening in other states,” Cooper said. “We want to drive those numbers down, and this is one of the ways that we believe will be effective.”
Some local governments had already approved bans of late-night alcohol sales, which can remain in effect if they are as restrictive or more restrictive as Cooper’s statewide order.
"Public health experts and examples from other states show that bars and other places where people gather closely together are a high-transmission setting for this virus,” Cooper said. “We want to prevent restaurants from turning into bars after hours."
Cooper says the Alcohol Law Enforcement and Alcoholic Beverage Control systems will be allowed to take action against the liquor licenses of establishments which don't comply with his curfew order.
Cooper's announcement came on the same day North Carolina reported another record number of hospitalizations involving coronavirus patients, which is now approaching 1,250.
More than 116,000 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported on Tuesday, with more than 1,800 deaths.