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Business

BizWorthy: Bars And Gyms Will Have To Eke It Out For At Least Three More Weeks

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Hattie's Tap and Tavern
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Hattie's Tap and Tavern between Plaza Midwood and NoDa has been closed since the coronavirus shutdown began in March.

Bars and gyms in North Carolina will remain closed for at least another three weeks. Gov. Roy Cooper is extending Phase 2 of his reopening plan, which had been set to expire Friday. The governor said while the state's coronavirus numbers are not spiking, it's still too soon to move into Phase 3 when bars and gyms -- and also movie theaters and entertainment venues -- would be allowed to reopen. For more, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

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Marshall Terry: Tony, some of these businesses have been closed now for almost four months. How are they responding to this latest announcement?

Tony Mecia: I think it's really a problem, Marshall. I mean, you close a business for four months with no revenue coming in, there's still a lot of bills to pay. I think it's really troubling for these businesses. Presumably, a lot of them received loans from the federal government to help sort of bridge this period. But, you know, it's getting pretty tough, I think. I mean, I don't know if any of them were really surprised. A lot of the coronavirus numbers have been heading in the wrong direction, and I think more of the science is showing that these indoor spaces where you're around a lot of people, that's very conducive to the spread of the virus.

So you talk about bars and you talk about movie theaters and gyms and places like that -- I mean, I don't know if they're entirely surprised. And you're seeing all over the place, not just in North Carolina, you know, all over the country, a lot of those places having to remain closed. And I think it's getting to be a real problem.

Terry: The governor has given North Carolina schools the option of holding a mix of in-person and remote classes or just doing remote classes this fall. This means parents who have returned to the workplace will have to figure out how to also teach and parent a child who's at home. Are you hearing anything about how businesses are responding to employees who may have to juggle work and family?

Mecia: Well, Marshall, I think a lot of employers are pretty understanding of this situation, that we're in a very difficult and almost unprecedented time. And I think a lot of them are forgiving and really want to be accommodating. You know, that's not always possible.

People who are working from home and telecommuting, maybe employers can have a little more flexibility than in the types of jobs and the types of roles where people have to show up to work and they have to be there to keep the business going. You know, you think of retail establishments, you think of, police, firefighters, daycare workers, teachers, construction.

There are all kinds of jobs that aren't just working-from-home jobs where people need to show up. And so employers don't necessarily have the luxury of saying, "You can just stay home and take care of the kids," if they want to keep the business open. So, while they are very supportive of the idea, a lot of them, of juggling that and keeping that work-life balance, there comes a point where it gets to be pretty problematic for employers. And so I think we're going to see as we head toward more virtual instruction in the fall, it's just going to continue. There are economic effects to that. The economy's not really fully able to realize its full potential if workers are not able to be fully engaged at work.

Terry: Wells Fargo is reportedly planning to cut tens of thousands of jobs around the country this year. What role is the economic impact from the pandemic playing in that decision?

Mecia: The coronavirus is hitting the banks kind of hard. Wells Fargo came out this week and said it lost money in the second quarter, its first quarterly loss since 2008. Banks are foreseeing that a lot of the loans that they have made are not going to get paid back. And so that's hitting their earnings a fair amount. So, certainly when you talk about Wells, that's part of it. There's also more to it than just the coronavirus. Wells now has a new CEO, Charles Scharf, he's been on the job I think almost a year now. And he, I think, has said, look, we're sort of inefficient. We need to cut costs. So some of it is sort of systemic, longer term. But some of it is definitely connected to some of the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

Terry: A developer has canceled plans to build about 150 townhomes off Blakeney Heath Road in Ballantyne. This is a project that was met with some pretty fierce opposition from neighbors who were concerned about traffic and overcrowding at schools. What do we know about why they're nixing it?

Mecia: Well, the developer, David Weekley Homes, hasn't said. I reached out to them and they didn't didn't reply. But there is a lot of opposition in this area of Ballantyne to developing that site off Blakeney Heath Road. It's behind the Morrison YMCA and Community House Middle School. In addition, the neighbors were also a little bit concerned. There's a historic farmhouse there. So, that in addition to the schools and the traffic concerns, I think, probably played a role. As well as, you know, a lot of developers are sort of reevaluating some of their projects now in light of the changed economy. So that could have also been part of it.

Terry: Finally, you report that rapper Jay-Z is backing a lawsuit against health insurance giant Centene. That's the company that just announced it's opening a regional headquarters in Charlotte and adding 3,200 jobs. So what's the focus of the lawsuit and where does Jay-Z come in?

Mecia: Right. You know, big companies, big Fortune 500 companies like Centene, they get the lawsuits all the time. This one filed by Jay-Z's production company called Roc Nation, and it's alleging that Centene, which is a health insurance company, failed to provide adequate care in prisons that it was providing health services to. And so this is a lawsuit connected to that shareholder lawsuit saying that Centene didn't quite do its job in making sure that the services it provided were adequate. We'll just have to see how it plays out I guess, Marshall. It was filed a couple of months ago, and it's going to work its way through the court system.

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