NC Senate passes new bill to reopen bars, gyms while giving governor power to re-close if necessary

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RALEIGH, N.C. — “If at first you don’t succeed, try again” seems to be the motto of the North Carolina General Assembly as they again work to reopen bars and, this time, gyms.

On June 6, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed House Bill 536, a bipartisan bill that would have allowed bars with outdoor seating to reopen despite the restrictions set in place in the governor’s Phase 2 reopening executive order.

Cooper had expressed concern over the first bill, explaining that the bill would have stripped his office of their ability to shut down bars and gyms if there was a new surge in coronavirus cases in the state.

“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,” Cooper said in his veto. “House Bill 536 would limit the ability of leaders to respond quickly to COVID-19 and hamper efforts to protect the health and safety of every North Carolinian.”

On Tuesday, the N.C. Senate passed a similar bill, House Bill 594, aimed at addressing the governor’s concerns.

The bill would allow bars and gyms to reopen with the added caveat that the governor would be able to re-close them should the pandemic see another surge, so long as he has Council of State concurrence.

Local health directors would also have the power to issue orders for their districts.

HB 594 passed with a vote of 36-13.

Both the initial and revised bills stipulate that these facilities would reopen with safety restrictions. Bars would be able to serve customers outside at 50% of the bar’s indoor capacity, and they would be expected to follow CDC social distancing guidelines.

Restaurants would also be able to create temporary outdoor seating.

Gyms would be able to open to 50% capacity as well.

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