MAY 21, 2020 / Madison Taylor
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A few hours after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper unfurled the new and slightly confusing “Safer at Home” phase two plan for reopening the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants and other impacted businesses in Alamance County began their own rollouts for how to serve customers safely in the weeks and months ahead.
And it’s a mixed bag. Some restaurants are planning to reopen public seating in dining areas with 50 percent occupancy in phases. Some are reopening at 5:01 p.m. on Friday when the new regulations go into effect while others are waiting a few days. Others with more limited inside space plan to continue takeout and curbside service but not reopen dining rooms at the moment. And a great many are asking municipal leaders for permits to serve customers on sidewalks or parking lots. And for a few the stay-at-home measure put in place more than two months ago proved insurmountable.
At the behest of Burlington Beer Works Brewery and Restaurant and other establishments, Burlington City Council began discussing outdoor dining options for restaurants this week. They did so knowing that Phase 2 was likely to start on Friday, May 22.
I had a conversation today (May 21) with Peter Bishop, director of Economic Development for the city of Burlington. He’s at the center of discussions about how to help restaurants “enhance their selling potential when they open back up rather than do takeout or curbside service.” A lot of areas outside of North Carolina are already allowing restaurants to use outdoor spaces by creating parklets, utilizing parking lots or even closing some streets temporarily.
The same could happen locally soon.
“I think we can make suburban outdoor dining happen pretty quickly on sidewalks or under-utilized parking lots,” Bishop said. “Downtown we’re looking at (the Historic Depot) space, nearby parking lots or streets for restaurants not near parking lots or the depot space.”
Bishop said the intention is for the city to make it happen.
As our country grapples with the threat of a pandemic and as we adjust to the challenges this new threat poses, it is important to plan for the new challenges and vulnerabilities that any such adjustments will necessarily create.
Congress has passed—and the President has signed—an unprecedented relief package to help businesses keep a connection to their employees and to help all Americans keep the bills paid, but such problems will hardly be the last ones that this virus causes. And with the wholesale pivot of the workforce to remote work that does not appear set to let up until the summertime, there is no more timely concern to raise among local businesses than cybersecurity.
The United States government has been proactive in their response to the increased threat of foreign actors seeking to use this crisis as an opportunity to divide and frighten Americans. But the government cannot be the only—or even primary—group taking action to safeguard against cyber-attacks. To that end, businesses should first know the threats that they face. Criminal elements and nation states both will be specifically targeting private American businesses in this crisis. In fact, we already have a model for foreign countries’ behavior, as we discovered last summer when the United States Department of Treasury announced that North Korea had stolen over $2 billion from American companies to finance their WMD and illicit missile programs.