CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A popular Myers Park pub cited for violating North Carolina’s COVID-19 restrictions responded Tuesday, saying they’re seeking clarity and apologize for any misunderstanding of the state’s Executive Order.
Selwyn Pub was cited for violating the governor’s coronavirus-related orders, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say. Over the weekend, Selwyn Pub announced on social media that it was temporarily closing its doors in response to climbing COVID-19 cases.
“Despite our best efforts, it is true that Selwyn Pub has recently received a citation for violating the North Carolina Executive Order,” Selwyn Pub said in a letter Tuesday. “We were not overcrowded and sincerely believed that we were following the letter and intent of the Executive Order.”
The pub said Sunday that their decision to temporarily close did not have to do with staff exhibiting symptoms of the virus, nor have there been positive cases found among them.
“No authority has suggested or required that we close our operation. We stand by our decision to voluntarily close during the surge,” Selwyn Pub said.
The pub said the Executive Order allowed restaurants to operate at 50-percent capacity, “and in an excess of caution,” the restaurant voluntarily limited the capacity to 37-percent. The pub also says all patrons were required to wear masks to enter and while not seated or actively consuming food or beverages.
“We have now been told that it is illegal to stand while drinking a beverage. We are currently seeking clarity on this issue and apologize if we misunderstood the ‘standing while drinking’ rule,” Selwyn Pub wrote. The pub says standing while drinking was the main issue the restaurant received when a COVID Ambassador paid them a visit Saturday.
According to Deputy Public Health Director Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County ambassadors were asked to contact Selwyn’s Pub and conduct four onsite visits between Nov. 1 and Nov. 14.
The health department said Selwyn Avenue Pub owners spoke with the county’s COVID ambassador supervisor on Nov. 14 regarding the “lack of social distancing, volume of people and general concern for public safety.” CMPD was then contacted by the supervisor to complete a follow-up visit due to the “lack of compliance noted by the COVID Ambassadors.”
Selwyn Pub says there was some back and forth conversation with the Ambassador and her supervisor, who were apparently both unable to “cite any authority” for their positions. The supervisor advised the pub to collaborate with CMPD, Selwyn Pub says, to clarify the issue.
“Instead of allowing these discussions to take place, the supervisor called in a complaint to CMPD that same evening," Selwyn Pub wrote in the letter. “To say that we are disappointed in the effectiveness of the COVID Ambassador program is an understatement.”
WBTV spoke to Doc Foster, the owner of the pub, Wednesday night. He said he had had constructive conversations with both the CMPD and COVID Ambassadors following his social media post Wednesday morning.
“We got off to a bit of a rocky start, but now that relationship is fine and (I’m) looking forward to working with them and for me it’s all positive,” said Foster.
The pub owner acknowledged that social distancing amongst customers at the pub hadn’t always been perfect during the pandemic.
“We’ve been here for 30 years. We try our best, but we want to learn from when we have not hit 100-percent,” said Foster.
He explained the challenges of trying to make sure customers keep an appropriate amount of distance from one another.
“We absolutely do not police them. These are our friends, our customers, they are people that want to be here and they want us to be successful and we more coax them. We try to be polite,” said the pub owner.
When asked if the customers frequently crowd together, Foster replied, “I wouldn’t say frequently, but often enough, as we reflect, to be an issue of concern and we have met with CMPD and we have actually designed a new flow plan.”
Foster explained that the pub had already been operating at less than 50-percent capacity.
The pub’s permits were also called into question Wednesday. Washington released a statement noting that the pub is not permitted to operate as a restaurant, and should be operating as a bar.
“The 50-percent occupancy limits for restaurants outlined in the Governor’s Executive Order 163 are not applicable as Selwyn Avenue Pub has not been properly permitted to operate as a restaurant. As per the Governor’s Executive Order 169, bars are limited to 30-percent capacity outdoors and seated-service only,” said the statement.
Foster said he was unaware of the permit discrepancy.
“They’re exactly right and I didn’t realize that until today. That’s again, taking responsibility,” noted the business owner.
He said he and his team will be working to get the permits necessary to reopen.
“We can’t always guarantee that we do everything right. We can guarantee the effort and that we will try and we do care,” said Foster.
November alone has seen three record-breaking days regarding virus numbers.
The pub closure extends to takeout services.
According to the statement, Selwyn’s Pub said it will spend an unspecified amount of time they’ll be closed cleaning and sanitizing, along with training.
“We are committed to health, safety and satisfaction of our patrons, our team members and our community,” they wrote. “Hope to see you soon!”