New Year’s Eve is going to be different this year.

Bars, restaurants and entertainment venues are under heavy restrictions from Gov. Roy Cooper. 

Plus, Cooper has imposed a 10 p.m. curfew on everyone in the state, which might seem to mean that everyone should be at home, or at least wherever they plan to spend the night, long before midnight.

But the curfew imposed by Cooper does have a few, or actually many, exceptions, and if you are thinking about staying out past Cooper’s curfew, it might be heartening to know that at least in Greensboro none of Cooper’s 183 executive orders are being enforced.

The curfew order itself has enough loopholes to drive even the largest SUV through without even pulling in the mirrors.  Some good news, particularly for those trying to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a more traditional manner, is that one of the exceptions to the curfew is to travel to and from an establishment that sells mixed drinks to go.  Also, although bars and restaurants have to stop selling alcoholic beverages to customers at 9 p.m., to go mixed drinks can be sold up until the normal 2 a.m. deadline. 

So, if at 11 a.m. you should decide that a martini from your favorite bar is what you need to usher in the New Year, the regulations won’t allow you to go to that bar, order and drink said martini, but you can go and order a martini to go.

You, of course, can also go out after 10 p.m. not only to buy mixed drinks but to buy groceries, take-out food, medical care, fuel, health care supplies and social services, not to mention to go to or from work.  Also, using any kind of shared transportation such as Uber and taxicabs or traveling to the airport, train station or bus station is exempt from the curfew restrictions, as is traveling to care for someone or a pet.

Mass gatherings are prohibited for more than 10 people indoors or 50 people outdoors, which seems like it would eliminate most New Year’s Eve parties, but Executive Order 18,1 also under “Exemptions,” states, “Worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all the requirements of this Executive Order.”

The First Amendment, along with freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, also protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”  The courts have interpreted this to mean any group that gathers or assembles including for social occasions is protected by the First Amendment.

So Executive Order 181 both states that people can’t gather in groups of more than 10 indoors or 50 outdoors and that the right of people to gather as protected in the First Amendment is exempt from that regulation.