Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory mask rule this week. (Image via NC DPS) Gov. Roy Cooper
Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory mask rule this week. (Image via NC DPS)

Legislation marks the third time the General Assembly has tried to open businesses earlier than Gov. Cooper’s plan.

On a vote mostly split along party lines, the North Carolina House passed a bill this week that would reopen bowling alleys and skating rinks earlier than Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has planned. 

Senate Bill 599, which would allow bowling alleys and skating rinks to reopen at 50% capacity, passed 68-52, with three Democrats voting with Republicans.

The bill would also reopen restaurants at minor league ballparks.

Rep. John Szoka, a Fayetteville Republican who introduced the bill, criticized Cooper’s science-based approach to reopening the state’s economy. The Raleigh News & Observer reported that Szoka stated he no longer trusted members of the scientific community.

“I’m not sure we should put the medical community in charge of our economy,” Szoka offered.

Durham Democratic Rep. Zack Hawkins countered that there are not enough safety precautions in place to protect workers while accelerating the state’s reopening.

“Our health and the health of our society has to take precedent,” Hawkins said.

Meanwhile, Patric Zimmer, co-owner of 10 Park Lanes in Charlotte, questioned why bowling alleys are among the last businesses set to open under North Carolina’s three-phase plan, WCNC-TV reported.

“We’re literally just like a bar and a restaurant, except we’ve got bowling,” Zimmer said.

North Carolina bars without bowling are also starting to feel the pinch from restrictions meant to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Charlotte bar Wet Willie’s posted on its Facebook page that it is permanently closing its location, one of many in the state to founder while coronavirus guts consumer spending. Robert Nixon, owner of Charlotte bars Peculiar Rabbit, The Rabbit Hole, Jackalope Jacks, and Smooth Monkey, has launched a petition calling on Cooper to open bars and restaurants at full capacity, even as the state reported 48,188 lab confirmed cases of the disease on Thursday. 

Nixon has also posted a sign outside Peculiar rabbit stating, “Thank you Governor Roy Cooper for killing private bars, restaurants, gyms, salons and so many more! We will see you at the voting booth!”

The legislation marks the third time the General Assembly has attempted to make an end run around Cooper’s reopening schedule for the state, speeding up the timetable for businesses to unlock their doors.

The first one, House Bill 536 would have reopened bars for outdoor seating while also doubling restaurants’ seating capacity. It was vetoed by Cooper. House Bill 594, which would reopen gyms and bars, is currently on Cooper’s desk awaiting his signature or veto.