by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while …
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
— T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
On St. Patrick’s Day, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an Executive Order, and the biggest item in the order was shutting down all bars and sit-down restaurants. Cooper’s order limited the sale of food and beverages throughout the state to “carry-out, drive-through, and delivery only.”
The order is a profoundly damaging use of executive authority, immediately sweeping out of work a large segment of workers and businesses across the state. As Don Carrington reports for Carolina Journal, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 360,000 North Carolinians work in the restaurant industry.
But — given the perils of the COVID-19 epidemic — could it also have been necessary?
The Council of State, whose concurrence Cooper needs per state law, and which had acquiesced to Cooper’s other executive actions, disagreed with this one. Rather than wait for their input, Cooper announced his shutdowns anyway.
The Council of State opposed shutting down restaurants and bars 6-3 (and one of those three votes was the governor’s). Joining him were Attorney General Josh Stein and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest did not concur but instead requested that the order strongly encourage restaurants and bars to limit their operations as opposed to shut them down completely:
I believe there should be flexibility for restaurants & other establishments. I would strongly encourage them to move to take-out and delivery only. We are talking here about shutting down a large swath of business across this state by executive action.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell also said the order should encourage restaurants and bars to limit their operations but not mandate they shut down:
[The executive order] should highly encourage these limitations on operations, NOT mandate them. The eating establishments that I frequent are 2 steps ahead. We should honor their tough decisions and the common sense of North Carolinian’s. (Not to mention the total disruption of the LARGEST component of NC’s economy)
Both Forest and Folwell — who has since been diagnosed with COVID-19 — wrote about how much of the state’s economy would be impacted by a shutdown. Numbers have proven them right, at wicked speeds.
As of this morning, per Carrington’s article in CJ, the Division of Employment Security had received 195,661 unemployment insurance claims from since March 16.