Bars and restaurants were the subject of two new ordinances and one new policy passed by the Greensboro City Council at the Tuesday, Dec. 21 meeting.

Both ordinances legalized expanded operations of restaurants and bars, and the policy is designed to punish bars and restaurants that have a violent incident in or near their premises.

Some have said it is a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

One ordinance designates a social district in downtown Greensboro where bars and restaurants are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages in to-go cups and customers are allowed to walk around in the social district while consuming their beverages from noon to 9 p.m. 

The other ordinance doesn’t plow new ground like the social district but should result in the downtown area looking better.  Bars and restaurants were allowed to extend their premises on to sidewalks and parking areas by use of special event permits.  This was done in an effort to compensate the establishments for reduced seating inside as a result of emergency orders.

What this ordinance does is allow bars and restaurants to make those expansions, mainly into city right of ways, permanent.

This ordinance was not discussed by the City Council, but City Attorney Chuck Watts did note that the North Carolina state legislature passed a statute making the ordinance possible.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “This gives business owners the security that if they want to invest more in their outside space, it will be a long term investment.”

It makes sense that a business owner would be hesitant to invest much capital in temporary outdoor space but would be much more likely to make that investment knowing that the extended outdoor space was permanent.

So, there are two ordinances to help bars and restaurants that suffered major financial losses during the COVID-19 shutdowns, and then a policy to punish privately owned for-profit bars and restaurants if a violent incident occurs in or near their premises.

The Safety Review Board the City Council created, according to its policy, will use enhanced enforcement of state laws and city ordinances to encourage compliance.