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Business

BizWorthy: NC's Lowered Crowd Limits Aimed At Gatherings, Not Businesses

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Jacob Bentzinger
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Crowd-size limits in North Carolina are aimed, in part, at curbing parties during a pandemic.

North Carolina will stay in Phase 3 of reopening through at least Dec. 4. In making that announcement this week, Gov. Roy Cooper cited the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state and concern over people gathering during the holidays. The governor did make one change to the restrictions in place: The number of people allowed to gather indoors has been lowered from 25 to 10.

For a look at how this may affect businesses, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Marshall Terry: Tony, the governor's latest order allows restaurants to keep the 50% capacity that was already in place, so does this affect them and other businesses in other ways?

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Tony Mecia: Well, Marshall, this latest restriction coming from the governor is really aimed at people in their houses. The concern is that over the Thanksgiving holidays that a lot of people are going to have big parties and get-togethers and spread the virus. So, it's really aimed at houses, and so you really probably might want to limit that Thanksgiving guest list. So, it's not really aimed at the restaurants or other businesses. It doesn't really affect them. They're governed by other parts of previous executive orders. Restaurants are still going to be at 50% capacity, gyms at 30% capacity, retailers unaffected.

Now, the other thing that the governor did say: He did say that restaurants are going to be eligible now to apply for some relief from the state government to help them cover their rent. So, again, it's a question of is it enough to keep some of these restaurants afloat?

Terry: Well, let's stick with restaurants for a moment. The Ledger reported this week there seems to be a trend happening in Charlotte. French restaurants are closing down. First of all, just how many French restaurants are there in Charlotte? And what's going on?

Mecia: Well, there are still a handful of French restaurants in Charlotte. You have a few crepe places. You have most of the locations of Amélie’s bakery, although it announced in the last week that it's closing its uptown location. We're sort of seeing a trend towards a lot of these French restaurants closing. I mean, you just think in the last couple of years, you've had Georges Brasserie in SouthPark, Aix en Provence and Lumiere in Myers Park, a few others...

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Several restaurants in Charlotte have closed their doors this year.

We talked to some experts, and they told us it has to do probably with the fact that people tend to envision French restaurants as sort of fancy sit-down places. Those are really sort of out of vogue at the moment with COVID, and also the restaurants — French restaurants — tend to use ingredients that are more expensive than, say, Italian restaurants.

Terry: Charlotte Douglas (International Airport) this week implemented a new system allowing travelers to book parking online. It's also reopened several plots that have been closed because of the pandemic. Is this just for the upcoming holidays or is air travel picking up?

Mecia: Well, it's a permanent thing. The airport has said that it's trying to streamline its parking systems and make them a little more contactless. You know, this sort of falls in line with what you see, probably at a lot of parking decks, say, uptown or other places where you don't actually need to check out to give the person your ticket.

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The way parking is handled at Charlotte Douglas International Airport is changing. (For cars, not planes.)

You can reserve in advance now. You can use Apple Pay. There are a number of things they're doing to try to sort of smooth it and streamline it.

Terry: There's some big development news in Dilworth. Records filed this week show the site of Alpine Ski Center on East Boulevard has been sold for $2.5 million. What can you tell us about that?

Mecia: Yeah, I talked to the broker who handled that transaction. It's a half-acre lot. And what the broker told me was that it's going to stay open for a couple of years through another couple of ski seasons, and then they'd like to turn it into a retail center with a rooftop restaurant and bar.

Terry: Now, this is right next to an area in which Atrium Health is planning some development, so there's a lot of change in store for that part of Dilworth.

Mecia: Yeah, there's really a lot going on in Dilworth right now. You have Atrium Health, which had put in a rezoning (plan that) was approved over the summer. They are expanding their campus, 70 acres there at Carolinas Medical Center's campus. You have the Starbucks site there in Dilworth at Scott Avenue and East Boulevard. That's being eyed for an office building, although they would keep the Starbucks in the bottom floor.

Then catty-corner from that is that empty lot that used to have the Epicurean and is now used as a pumpkin patch or a Christmas tree lot. Developers are looking at building something there. There's an active rezoning there. And then as you head toward uptown and midtown, there's a lot going on in that corridor as well. Atrium is kind of moving toward uptown.

They've got a couple of buildings there on Kenilworth, their vascular institute. And then there's also there's also been a lot of talk lately, Marshall, about the site of the medical school. There was a property transaction on Morehead (Street) near McDowell (Street), kind of by Dilworth Neighborhood Grille that real estate sources are telling me is looking like it's going to be the site for the new medical school that Atrium has talked about, although Atrium has not confirmed the site for that. And CEO Gene Woods said at a board meeting this week that they probably wouldn't have an announcement on that site until early 2021.

Terry: All right, Tony, thanks.

Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.

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