Restaurants and bars across the state, and particularly here in Carteret County, are working hard to meet the demands of their patrons and so the recent efforts of the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing full operation is appreciated, but it is only the beginning of what may still turn out to be a difficult year for the hospitality industry.

North Carolina legislators are considering House Bill 211 that allows bars and restaurants to reopen to full capacity if they follow strict guidelines including daily temperature checks, frequent cleaning of “high touch” areas, followed by deep cleaning at the end of the business day. Buffet style restaurants must provide patrons disposable gloves and masks and in the case of large parties, table seating is limited to 10 people unless larger parties are all related.

This legislation goes a long way in providing structure for the establishments while giving the public a sense of confidence to visit restaurants and bars.

But based on anecdotal evidence as seen in the number of help wanted signs at restaurants throughout the county, this legislation may only provide psychological benefits, not the financial benefits as intended.

The vast majority of restaurants have been struggling for months with mandated limits resulting in reduced incomes which has necessitated a subsequent reduction in staff. The same mandates have for all intents and purposes forced bars to close completely, which has pushed their servers on to the unemployment rolls. Now that they can open their doors, the restaurant and bar owners are working hard to fill jobs that were lost during the height of the pandemic and recent results are not looking positive.

Carteret County restaurants, currently operating under the governor’s guidelines of 75% indoor occupancy and 100% outdoor, are finding it difficult to serve their patrons in the current environment. Already county restaurants are having to reduce days and hours of operation to give their limited staff time to rest. So the question is now, how quickly can the restaurants gear up for the oncoming tourist season which officially begins May 31, a little more than six weeks away?

According to Don Kirkman, Carteret County’s Economic Development Foundation director, the labor market in every field, both service and manufacturing is “incredibly tight.” He notes that a large number of the businesses in the county are aggressively seeking employees. And based on the current labor pool there is serious concern that should business activity rebound to conditions prior to the pandemic, many of our restaurants will not be able to provide outstanding service as in the past.

There are several factors that are impacting the lack of food service workers in the county. Obviously there are many who are concerned about public contact out of fear that the pandemic has not been completely stopped. The fact that the county has recorded its fifty-first COVID-19 death this week lends credence to that concern.

But the other and greater conflict is caused by the availability of federal support in the form of unemployment compensation and other pandemic related financial relief funds. There is no question that those financial resources were needed in most of 2020 and the first quarter of this year, but now that business operations are beginning to reopen there is ample opportunity to find employment, particularly in the service industry which is rebounding quickly.

While these pandemic funds are flowing there is little incentive for the recipients to go back to work. But this money cannot continue unabated; eventually the well will run dry and people will need to find employment. Now that job opportunities abound, it is time to turn off the federal funds spigot, thus incentivizing a return to work.

As a tourist centric community because of our beaches and accessible water resources, the hospitality industry is vital to our economy. And the key player is our restaurant community. They are a natural attraction, no matter what size or variety. From the iconic fast food served at El’s Drive-in or any of the many award winning in-dining restaurants noted for serving local, fresh seafood, tourists and locals want to enjoy Carteret County’s restaurants. The faster they can re-open to full capacity, the quicker our economy will recover, which by extension will help the state as well.

(23) comments

David Collins

Pretty simple . Government needs to back off on the welfare bribe payments and get out of the way . This means relinquishing the power grab that the dreaded Covid allowed . Sadly that is going to prove to be a far tougher nut to crack then the disease . The nature of bad politics .


Now that job opportunities abound, it is time to turn off the federal funds spigot, thus incentivizing a return to work.

Did I read that right? Cut the pandemic benefits to force ppl into low paying seasonal / hospitality jobs to support the all important tourist industry? If the county leaders focus was not exclusively on summer tourism, and for the last few decades had been promoting light manufacturing and other economic engines perhaps there would be more opportunities for employment locally?



Although I am sure there are ppl who make great money waitressing/bartending, etc., I think the majority of service workers are low paid and have either left for better opportunities or are trying to better themselves. The county leaders are reaping what they sow by focusing only on the tourism/service industry as low paid jobs mean also more need for social services, subsidized childcare and housing. We are just getting started w/going down that rabbit hole. The county didn't think that all the way thru and the need for services is going to expand rapidly, along with the need to tax all of us to pay for it. Now if they had just set aside some of the extra $ from increased taxes from increased housing value, the hurricanes and covid instead of spending it on expensive admin. buildings and such, we'd have the money w/o raising taxes.

David Collins

... This is a service industry area , get used to it . If you have marketable skills or your mind has not been totally burned out , relocate to where your skills are marketable . Yes , stop paying the dependent amongst us not to work . Poverty can be a strong motivator . The rest will languish as always . Just the way it is .

(Edited by staff.)


Diversification, whether in a stock portfolio, or farming, or most endeavors is a wise choice. Thus the expression " don't put all your eggs in one basket"( tourism).

While it is possible someone knows someone who made $1000 a week 52k a yr?) at a restaurant, that is likely the exception rather then the rule.


Diversification is always important for survival. [thumbup]. Wish the county leaders thought that as well.


The $52K is what the federal and state governments paid for unemployment. Why do you think folks don't want to go back to work? 52k not work....35k wotk....dah!


Uh, I know a woman that was working for an upper-scale restaurant in Carteret County.

Made $1,000 a week most of last year and now making about $700 a week till the end of this year on unemployment.

No, she’s not getting rich, but she lives a simple lifestyle and enjoying the time at home.

And under Coop’s orders, anyone applying for unemployment before March 14, 2021, doesn’t even have to look for a job.

May not get folks back to work until 2022 and not then if Biden broadens his Socialism Plan.


You are wrong. There is a mandatory job search required, your neighbor is not making that much money if she is getting money at all. And she is not eligible for the rest of the year to live on taxpayers coffers. All kinds of new paperwork has been required....


ABC 12 News: Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order earlier this week requiring people to prove they're actively searching for work. It's a requirement that was waived amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will begin again on March 14, 2021.

Executive Order 200 Gov Cooper: The Department, through the Secretary of Commerce, Assistant Secretary of Employment Security, and Assistant Secretary of Workforce Solutions, is directed to reinstate the work search requirements, set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 96-14.9(b) ("Work Search Requirements"), as interpreted flexibly, for those unemployment insurance claimants who file on or after March 14, 2021 ("New Claimants").


As far as how much folks could make: You gotta remember for 6 months in 2020 the Feds paid $600 per week for unemployment then down to $400 per week for several months and started out at $300 per week in 2021. That’s in addition to the $3-400 per week NC pays. I don't know for sure, just what I was told.


Given this sustained ATTACK on YOUR LIVELIHOOD'S AND NEIGHBOR'S using YOUR OWN FUNDS, i'm surprised there is even a smile out there. Hopefully CON JOB COOPER will go ahead and simply shut down ALL activity and finish the EXTORTION CON JOB. I know this much, America will be done in less then 4 years of the current ruling class, much less NC. (here's a hint, get your businesses back open, and ignore him, none of what he did, or does is LAW, and alot was against the LAW IN NC ) Gov's do not MAKE LAW in a State. They are simply the public servant to ENFORCE PRIOR LAW AND ORDER. (which is another joke in our case).



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Where is it stated that people never need help at points in life , or should be denied it? Secondly, its not up to any GOVERNMENT to get into ANY family business, and i'm sorry that you think they are the answer. But, i'll wait for the answer to my question.


"In a free society, government reflects the soul of its people. If people want change at the top, they will have to live in different ways. Our major social problems are not the cause of our decadence. They are a reflection of it."

Cal Thomas


No, your current government is not what America is about, A small loud portion CREPT in , whom we'll cal 'DESTRUCTIONIST'S', Other groups are feeding off of them. They will be weeded out. Bad or good, the GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO STAY OUT OF FAMILY BUSINESS, ALL OF IT. Their nothing more then our WAR MACHINE.


Texas nurse Brittany Logan said she was "shocked" by the honesty of a sign she saw at a McDonald's drive-thru asking customers for patience as the restaurant deals with a staffing issue because "no one wants to work anymore". Logan said she thinks the Texas McDonald's is short-staffed because people make more money collecting unemployment benefits.

David Collins

If the locals don’t wish to fill available jobs due to making more money on unemployment that is ok . With the influx of all these legal illegals our dear leader wants to import , these jobs will soon be filled with willing workers , glad to make the higher wages and happy to snap up these unwanted jobs . They are willing , eager to learn and will not complain a bit . The gravy train will run out . It always does .


I would like you all to remember last AUG, height of the 'PANDEMIC' at large no less, here is YOUR STATE REP super duper backend Cooper..... quoted in this article, when he shook you all down with the help of the local leaders? Now, this is an issue folks! Your tax money hard at work, in someone else's pocket.......[yawn]


Refugees Find a New Home in North Carolina Amid COVID-19 Height of the scamdemic, not in the regular papers. Your state rep backdoor cooper.


We need this law in NC to get people back to work: A new Minnesota bill would prevent people convicted of criminal offenses during protests or other civil unrest from receiving state aid including, but not limited to rent assistance, food stamps, unemployment benefits, and medical assistance.


I'll be honest , since this scam started and your Government turned its guns on you, instead of the real enemy, if there is one, well, imo..... you folks need to dissolve , and remove as much of them as possible.

Welcome to the discussion.

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