Black Mountain to comply with Buncombe emergency COVID order on restaurants, gatherings

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
Louise's Kitchen serving customers in downtown Black Mountain on Aug. 27, 2020.

The Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to comply with a Buncombe County ordinance to restrict restaurant capacity to 30%, down from 50%, and indoor gatherings from 10 to two during a Dec. 29 special meeting.

The county’s decision limits restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries and won’t take effect until 5 p.m. Jan. 2. It will remain until 5 p.m. on Jan. 8 unless otherwise repealed, replaced or rescinded.

The board will meet during the week of Jan. 8 to continue a discussion of the ordinance and whether to amend any restrictions.

Mayor Larry Harris said prior to the vote that while he would follow the county’s decision, creating a set of rules at both the state and county level is “problematic.”

“I just think that’s problematic for the public in following it, and I think the governor’s doing a good job in my opinion and has been willing to make difficult decisions,” Harris said. “I think, to micromanage it from the local level, it creates some problems in my opinion.”

The Dec. 23 ordinance follows an uptick of cases in the county, alderman Doug Hay noted, including a near 200-case jump in a one-month span following Thanksgiving in the 28711 ZIP code.

“We’re definitely seeing a surge here in the county, and our Black Mountain ZIP code, and those numbers are troubling for all of us,” Hay said.

Alderman Ryan Stone said the county has seen a two- to three-week spike following Thanksgiving and agreed with Hay. He said the town should “do whatever it can to mitigate that spread.”

“I certainly understand the restaurateurs’ concerns that they feel that they’re being singled out by this ordinance, but if we can do whatever we can to mitigate that spread … perhaps being overly cautious, which I’m sure the county commission was in contact with the health department and (they are) in concurrence that this would benefit the community overall, that would be my thoughts on reducing the capacity to 30%,” Stone said.

Hay added that if the town continues with restaurant capacity restrictions, it should develop an initiative to support local restaurants with income going into the new year.

Alderman Archie Pertiller Jr. suggested that the town’s decision parallel county schools moving virtual until Jan. 19 and that the board continue to meet and discuss any potential restriction changes.

Though the county has experienced an uptick in cases, alderman Tim Raines said, “spread is mostly happening in private gatherings.” Any new restrictions would not directly influence cases, he said, and controlling any New Year’s or Christmas gatherings would be more imperative.

Raines added that the town should consider the economic stability of the community, with local business owners relying heavily on income during the holidays.

Alderman Pam King said she “understands the dilemma here” after spending the “last week on the horns of the dilemma going back and forth thinking what’s best for Black Mountain.”

“I feel their pain, not to the extent that they do, obviously, but I feel like the situation is dire and getting worse,” King said.

King agreed with Hay’s support of local restaurants, saying that residents should do what they can to order takeout.

“This would be an excellent time to stand together as a community and do what we can for these restaurants,” King said.