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Coronavirus

Businesses Adapt To Changes On COVID Restrictions

By Cece Nunn, posted May 20, 2021
A week after the CDC announced May 13 that fully vaccinated people can skip the mask and social distancing, businesses continue to adapt to an atmosphere free of many COVID-19 restrictions.

As a result of the CDC announcement, Gov. Roy Cooper on May 14 lifted most remaining state rules, including those regarding masks and social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated as well those about capacity limits and mass gatherings.

Bars were some of the businesses hardest hit by restrictions, having to remain closed to indoor drinking in North Carolina for nearly a year before being able to open at a limited capacity in February.

Ashley Tipper, owner of downtown Wilmington bar The Blind Elephant, said her staff hasn’t had any issues after the most recent announcements.

“We’re fully vaccinated here at the bar, and so they’ve been able to take their masks off and the customers seem fine with masks or no masks,” Tipper said of the speakeasy at 21 N. Front St. 

The Blind Elephant has 10 staff members.

“I‘m very pleased with how well this has transitioned,” Tipper said. “We’re not requiring masks at our establishment and everyone seems OK with that.”

Doug Warf, president of MDO Holdings, which owns O2 Fitness and a number of other companies, said things are going "very well" so far after the CDC and state changes.

“The announcement of relaxing mask restrictions was very well received by our members and our teams,” said Warf, whose company has 17 O2 Fitness locations in North Carolina, four in Wilmington. “North Carolina was one of only 18 states that was still requiring masks during workouts, which gave us a great chance to monitor other states and provide that feedback to the governor's team. 

“We know we can operate safely and we have already welcomed back many members who did not feel comfortable working out in a mask.”

Some businesses still have mask requirements, particularly for unvaccinated people and/or staff members. And state officials said masks are still required in child care, schools, camps, health care facilities and some other settings

But other businesses and their patrons are embracing the recent changes.

"We’re the busiest we’ve ever been, breaking records almost every day," said Jimmy Gilleece, owner of Jimmy's Wrightsville Beach, a bar at 5 N. Lumina Ave. in Wrightsville Beach. "I think people are just ready to go out and have a good time."

The change from a limit of 50% capacity in the bar to full capacity has also helped, he said.

"We don’t have to keep such a strict count of how many people we have in here," Gilleece said. "It just makes it a lot easier on the staff."

To read more about restaurant owners responding to the changes, check out Thursday's WilmingtonBiz Talk.
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