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“Who can survive that?” Cooper’s shutdown kills more restaurants

Don Carrington has a sharply worded and reasoned column in Carolina Journal today: “Cooper needs to own N.C.’s entire employment situation.” Why lay it all at Gov. Roy Cooper’s feet? Because he went it alone:

Cooper also needs to take responsibility for the overall employment situation in North Carolina, not just the delivery of benefits through the Division of Employment Security. He needs to own the North Carolina job losses as measured by the N.C. Department of Commerce and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Cooper is the one who ordered restaurants and bars to cease normal operations starting March 17. He is the one who ordered gyms, health clubs, movie theaters, barber shops, hair salons, and other select businesses to close March 25. He is the one who ordered citizens to stay home and nonessential businesses to cease operations March 30.

Cooper announced Wednesday that restaurants and some other businesses could reopen at 5 p.m. Friday, subject to restrictions. He also ordered that some business remain closed until June 26. Those businesses include gyms, movie theaters, museums, amusement parks, bars, and night clubs.

Cooper’s orders are responsible for the loss of jobs. The total loss to date is unclear, but the claims data from DES give us some insight into how bad the situation is. According to DES, from March 15 through May 20, 1,252,834 initial claims have been filed, 922,821 individuals have filed claims, and 565,970 claimants were paid. DES hasn’t released any estimates of people who have tried to file a claim but couldn’t get through to the call center or navigate the online process.

The severity of Cooper going it alone requires an immediate repair of the gaping hole Cooper blew in the state’s Emergency Management Act. John Locke Foundation legal policy analyst Jon Guze explains today why it is “Time to amend the Emergency Management Act“:

Significantly, however, the act states that [the governor] may only exercise those additional powers “with the concurrence of the Council of State,” a body of 10 elected officials that includes the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of labor and commissioner of insurance.

When Cooper issued his March 17 order closing bars and restaurants, the order specifically stated that he had “sought and obtained the necessary concurrence from the Council of State consistent with the governor’s emergency power authorized in N.C. Gen. Stat. 166A-19.30(b).” In fact, he hadn’t. Six of the ten members refused to concur.

When some of them complained, Gov. Cooper pointed to an alternative source of power: 19.30(c), which authorizes him to “impose by declaration prohibitions and restrictions in the emergency area … if he “determines that local control of the emergency is insufficient to assure adequate protection for lives and property.” Because this provision makes no mention of the Council of State, Cooper took the position that it effectively gave him unlimited power to act without Council of State concurrence.

In his subsequent orders, starting with the March 27 “stay at home” order, Gov. Cooper didn’t bother to refer to 19.30(b) at all. Instead, he simply invoked his power under 19.30(c) and cut the other members of the Council of State out of the decision-making process altogether.

This is an abuse of power and due process. The governor has been citing 19.30(c), not because he has determined that local control is insufficient, but simply to avoid the necessity for Council of State concurrence. But, if all that’s required to invoke the governor’s powers under 166A-19.30(c) is a pro forma claim of insufficient local control, the procedural check on gubernatorial power provided by 19.30(b) is a nullity, which can’t be right.

The thought that Cooper’s legal team thinks they can “discover” dictatorial powers where they aren’t is terrifying. The consequences are too numerous to list. The steady destruction of small businesses and the jobs they once provided is one particularly sad result.

More restaurants dying

Understand, of course, that very few of the shuttered businesses will even get noticed in the media. They will simply disappear and be mourned by their owners, former employees, customers, and locals.

IndyWeek notes the death of a Raleigh landmark, Oakwood Cafe. This hurts:

After 21 years of serving authentic Cuban and Argentinian cuisine, family-owned Oakwood Café has closed its bright red Edenton Street storefront for good.

The quaint eatery is one of the latest local restaurants to shutter as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on downtown Raleigh’s culinary scene.

“Downtown is dead,” cafe owner Norberto Meccia told the INDY.

Speaking on the phone Monday while cooking risotto at home, Meccia says business had been fine prior to the pandemic, but after the state banned dine-in service at restaurants in March, Meccia saw his sales drop by about 80 percent.

“Who can survive that?” Meccia says. “Nobody.”

After 21 years, gone, through no fault of its own.

The News & Observer on May 15 included a list of Triangle area restaurants permanently closed. In addition to ones already mentioned here, they include:

  • Kipos, a Greek taverna in Chapel Hill Greek
  • Liquid State, an NC State-area coffee shop and bar
  • Chapel Hill pizzeria Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza
  • Raleigh hot dog and hamburger joint Pharoah’s
  • All three Triangle locations of Chronic Tacos, a California-based taco chain

WRAL wrote of the loss of Raleigh’s Gateway Restaurant, a family-run business that had been here since 1985.

After 35 years in business, Gateway Restaurant has closed at 2411 Crabtree Blvd., owners Martina Brooks and Tom Rohweder announced via Facebook Tuesday.

The two took over the restaurant from their father, Hans Rohweder in 2000. Hans had been running it since 1985.

“Gateway has truly been a family business in every sense of the word,” owners wrote on Facebook. “Customers who came for their first breakfast or lunch returned again and again until they become friends and “Gateway family.” Known for comfort food in abundance it was a great place to start the day or enjoy a lunch break. For many people, Gateway has been a home away from home, ‘where everybody knows your name,’ a place to relax and a haven for hugs and humor.”

Thirty-five years, and a “home away from home” was done in by order of the governor.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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