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'It's been a struggle' | Starting Friday, Charlotte bars can reopen indoors

Bars were previously only allowed to open outdoors at 30% capacity.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Starting Friday at 5 p.m. bars in North Carolina can open at 30% capacity indoors for the first time in nearly a year.

North Carolina state leaders also relaxed the hours for on-site alcohol consumption till 11 p.m.

The Thirsty Beaver Saloon in Plaza Midwood has been closed indoors since last March.

“The last year has been a real struggle,”  Brian Wilson, co-owner of the Thirsty Beaver Saloon said. “Being as small as we are, we haven’t opened up, even though in the last few months you could open up as an outside venue with 30 percent capacity. We just didn’t feel like that was going to be sustainable or profitable.”

The dive bar honky-tonk has stood the test of time as the Plaza Midwood neighborhood and its multi-level apartment complexes have physically grown around it.

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Now, it’s made it through almost a year of pandemic restrictions that kept its doors shut.

“We were excited to finally have an opportunity to do business again,” Wilson said. “You don't realize how lucky you are to have a place that is so well supported by the community until it goes away."

The Thirsty Beaver Saloon is a small space, so Wilson said it will be limiting the number of people allowed inside to roughly 15.

“We’re excited about Friday, can have people inside,” Wilson said. "And try to keep it as cozy as possible without everybody getting too close.”

Sidelines Sports Bar & Billiards has been waiting for the opportunity to reopen inside.

"Like everybody, we've been stressing trying to survive during all this,” said Kevin Cooper an owner and manager of Sidelines Sports Bar & Billiards and Bar Argon. “So just knowing that we can open till 11 and be inside, that's all we've been asking for these last few months." 

Sidelines Sports Bar & Billiards and Bar Argon, which is next door, reopened with outdoor seating in October, facing the challenges of fall and winter weather.

The indoor setup at Sidelines has been ready for customers for months. When it reopens to people on Friday, the socially distanced seating, hand sanitizer, and new air filtration system will be in place.

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“Now that we can breathe a little easier and step forward into this next phase, we’re definitely happy,” Cooper said.

Like many other bars, Cooper said bills still had to be paid the last 11 and a half months, no matter what restrictions were put in place on businesses.

Cooper said he is glad bars now have the opportunity to show that they can be safe indoors.

“There’s more of us that are doing it right than those that are making us look bad, so hopefully the Governor sees that and sees that we’re just here to do what we can and keep our customers safe,” Cooper said.