The nearly year-long coronavirus shutdowns and restrictions ordered by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper have been hard on small businesses, and have been particularly hard on bars.

While restaurants, even those that serve alcohol, were allowed to reopen with limited occupancy in May, bars remained closed by Cooper’s executive orders until October, and they are still not allowed to serve customers indoors, while restaurants are limited to 50 percent of their indoor capacity.

The North Carolina General Assembly, which started its 2021 session on Jan. 27, is already taking some steps to fix unfair treatment of small businesses.

The North Carolina House on Thursday, Feb. 4 approved legislation that extends deferrals for ABC permit renewal fees to help bar owners who were hit with renewal fees in January.

The bill would retroactively extend the deferral of ABC permit fees for businesses prohibited from operating under Cooper’s Executive Order 141 until 90 days after they are allowed to go back into full operation.

Only the government, or in this case the governor, would prohibit businesses from operating and still require them to pay for a permit to operate.  It seems only fair that the executive orders that closed bars and restricted their operations should have also waived the fees for ABC permits.

The bill will allow bar owners to request a refund of any permit fees already paid for 2020 and 2021 and directs the ABC Commission to reinstate or reactivate any permits that it cancelled or moved to an inactive status.

In a press release, House ABC Committee Chair Tim Moffitt (R-Henderson) said, “These are family businesses hurting in North Carolina, who need help now and should not be required to pay fees to a state government that is strictly limiting their ability to generate revenue and operate as planned.  The folks working in our service economy are facing unprecedented challenges and I am committed  to supporting their continued needs as we turn North Carolina toward recovery.”

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said, “House lawmakers began working to get relief to these business owners again as soon as the news of their permit renewal fees was reported, and we are committed to delivering this assistance as they continue to face economic restrictions of their livelihoods.”