COVID-19 FAQ for NC Restaurants and Lodging Establishments
As the impact of Coronavirus continues to have devastating impact across the globe, the hospitality industry is facing unprecedented challenges. At NCRLA, we are working around the clock to answer your questions and to advocate at all levels of government for relief to help support your employees and your businesses. We have compiled a list of common questions and answers that we hope will be helpful. We stand ready and eager to help our members navigate these uncharted waters during these difficult times. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is so much happening so fast. As a business owner, how am I supposed to keep up with everything?
We have a new document outlining all the latest. Find it here.
What does the new federal law signed by the President on Wednesday mean for employers and employees?
Our friends at Jordan Price Law Offices have prepared a memo on the Families First Act Response Act – it directly impacts employers related to mandatory paid sick leave, paid extended leave under the FMLA for childcare, and notice/posting obligations. The next phases of federal relief legislation are in process as we speak, and NCRLA is working hard to advocate for our hospitality businesses. We expect the next bill, Phase 3 which is focused on small business relief, to pass this weekend or early next week. We’ll share more details here then.
Can I have an extension on filing and paying my federal taxes?
Yes. For taxpayers affected by COVID-19, it appears that the filing deadline is still in effect but the due date for making Federal income tax payments normally April 15, 2020 is postponed to July 15, 2020
State & Local
What exactly is NCRLA asking state lawmakers to do to relieve hospitality businesses and employees?
You can see all the specific policy asks in this letter addressed to NC House Speaker Tim Moore. An identical letter was sent to NC Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger.
My state taxes are due right now. Can I have an extension on filing and paying?
Yes, the NC Department of Revenue has issued a limited-waiver of certain penalties on failure to file or pay a tax due between March 14, 2020 and March 31, 2020.
My ABC permit renewal is due April 30? Can I have an extension?
Yes, NCRLA asked the Governor a for grace period for ABC permit registration/renewal it was extended today to June 30. Thanks to Gov. Cooper & ABC for being flexible.
What does Executive Order No. 118 issued by Governor Cooper mean for restaurants and bar operations?
Effective Tuesday, March 17 at 5:oo pm, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 118, Limiting operations of restaurants and bars and broadening unemployment insurance benefits in response to Covid-19.
The State Health Director is exercising quarantine and isolation authority to limit access to facilities that sell food and beverage to carry-out, drive through, in-room dining, and delivery services only. UPDATE: ALL PATIO AND OUTDOOR DINING IS SHUT DOWN due to first confirmed case of community spread in NC.
More questions on executive orders? The NC League of Municipalities has shared Legal Considerations: Executive Order Powers and Enforcement.
When does the Executive Order take effect and how long does it last?
These restrictions were effective as of 5:00 pm, Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and run until March 31, 2020, or until the Order is rescinded or replaced.
Can local governments mandate restrictions that go beyond the Governor’s order?
Yes. Local health directors have the authority to place more stringent requirements than state guidance per GS 13A-20. This applies to anything – gathering limits, outdoor seating. Dare County has taken some actions to limit visitors, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg is also considering tighter controls locally.
What kind of food and beverage operations are impacted?
Operations that both prepare and service food are included in the Order including but not limited to restaurants, cafeterias, food halls, dining halls, food kiosks at airports and shopping centers, or educational institutions (“food courts”), as well as private or members-only clubs where food and beverages are permitted to be consumed on premises.
Can bars—defined as establishments that are not restaurants and that have a permit to sell alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption—operate?
What kind of food and beverage service will be allowed?
Carry-out, drive-through, delivery, and onsite consumption in outdoor seating areas, subject to mass gathering restrictions to create an environment where staff and patrons maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet from other people) whenever possible. Refer to ABC for guidance on alcohol beverage service.
What kind of businesses are NOT impacted by this Order?
Retail venues that currently provide for the sale of beer, wine, and liquor for off-site consumption only, grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations, and charitable food distribution sites can continue to operate. However, sit-down or beverage service within these facilities is prohibited. Outdoor consumption may be allowed if patrons practice social distancing of at least 6 feet.
Can food trucks continue to operate?
It appears that food trucks qualify as take out operations and can continue to operate.
I have an ABC permit to sell alcohol at my establishment. Can I still sell alcohol if my kitchen is operating? Can I deliver it?
Yes, you can sell unopened beer and wine to-go provided you have a retail sales permit and are following ID-verification protocols. Delivery of beer and wine also allowed 1) through a third-party delivery service that is permitted or 2) via your own employees if they have completed the free online ABC training.
NOTE: if delivery is new for you, check with your insurer to see if additional liability insurance is required.
I’m a hotelier and I have a restaurant buyout for an event. Is the restaurant’s dining room considered private function space?
No. If your hotel’s restaurant/dining area is permitted by your county as a restaurant, it is subject to the Governor’s executive order closing restaurant dining rooms.
How will this Order be enforced?
The provisions of this order will be enforced by state and local law enforcement officers.
What are some things I can do to sustain my business if I choose to stay open?
- 50% of North Carolinians consume their meals from restaurants. It’s essential that restaurants stay open if they can. Shift your model to delivery and takeout and promote them as best as they can. Focus on off-premise sales, delivery, drive-thru, and curbside pickup. People don’t cook or don’t want to cook and plenty of people, particularly essential workers, are still commuting to and from work and take lunch breaks.
- Scale back menu items to streamline product usage and labor.
- Engage employees in ideas to help your business survive and help them protect their jobs in the long term.
- Have conversations with your banks, landlords, and other vendors about ways to reduce, delay, or restructure payments to get through this period. Rent and loan payments are huge challenges for many owners and operators. Even if you choose to close your business, landlords and lenders will expect payment.
What if I want to transition my hotel for relief purposes and allow my establishment to be used by the government to house coronavirus victims or medical or relief workers?
Contact the Director of your county health department for more information.
Will my business insurance cover losses related to COVID-19?
Our friends at Towne Insurance gave up this helpful Q&A on the topic.
What procedures should I follow if I need to close my business?
Thanks to our friends at 99 Restaurants, Darden Restaurant Company, and 110 Grill for furnishing their restaurant closing operational manuals which you can view here.
Will my business be eligible for assistance through the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Assistance Program in response to the Coronavirus?
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Governor Cooper has requested that the entire state of North Carolina be designated as disaster area. Upon designation, eligible NC businesses who have been adversely impacted will be eligible to apply for assistance. Click here for more info on these SBA loans.
HR & Employment
If I choose to reduce the hours of my employees or lay off employees, am I required to provide a federal WARN notice?
The WARN Act is a federal act which offers protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of “plant closings” and “mass layoffs.” 20 C.F.R. § 639.1
NCRLA cannot provide legal advice and businesses who believe they may be required to provide WARN notices should consult with legal counsel. Click here for some general guidance.
Are employees who are affected by COVID-19 eligible for unemployment insurance?
Yes. Click here for an employee reference guide to unemployment insurance.
Employees who are separated from employment, have had their hours of employment reduced, or are prevented from working due to a medical condition caused by COVID-19 or due to communicable disease control measures, are eligible for unemployment benefits.
Employees who are quarantined or directed by a federal, state or local government authority or a medical or public health professions to remain in isolation related to COVID-19 are eligible for unemployment insurance.
What changes are in effect for unemployment insurance for those impacted by COVID-19?
The following flexibility and waivers to NC unemployment insurance have been made for COVID-19 response:
- allows unemployment benefits for layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- removes 1-week waiting period
- removes requirement to look for work
- allows remote application
- declares that employers will not be responsible for the payments
How can someone apply for unemployment insurance:Before you apply, here’s what you need.You can apply for benefits online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you need help, contact the Customer Call Center at 888-737-0259, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Here’s where you can submit an application.
Employees may file directly online or the employer may file on behalf of the employee through an attached claim. An attached claim is a claim filed by an employer on behalf of an employee who has been temporarily laid off or who has worked less than 60% of the customary scheduled full-time hours for the employee.
Here’s a video from NC Works on how employees may submit a claim.
If you have questions, check out the NC Department of Employment Security’s FAQ page or call DES’s employer call center directly to have a conversation: 866-278-3822.
Will my business be allocated charges for employees who are paid unemployment benefits for reasons related to COVID-19?
The NC Department of Commerce will not allocate charges to the employers’ accounts for individuals who are paid benefits for reasons related to COVID-19. The NC Department of Commerce will separately account for these expenditures to that the State of North Carolina can seek reimbursement from the federal government.
What is NCRLA doing to advocate for hospitality businesses during this crisis?
We hear you loud and clear that restaurants and hotels need a lifeline during this crisis that will allow employees and owners to weather the storm and be ready to spring back into action quickly. We have sent letters and detailed policy requests to NC House Speaker Tim Moore and NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. Click here for a detailed summary of our advocacy work.
Things have been happening at warp speed, and NCRLA’s team is working day and night on recovery effort, advocating on behalf of hospitality businesses – with Congress, with the Governor, and with leadership and members of the NC General Assembly.
NCRLA actively lobbied for, and the Governor agreed, to allow delivery/takeout/drive-thru/grab-and-go operations and alcohol delivery.
We are in contact with a number of organizations and non-profits who have reached out to offer financial assistance to hospitality industry employees who are being impacted in significant ways as a result of this pandemic and we expect to have a plan in place soon to assist these employees who play a vital role in our NC hospitality community.
It is important for you to know that NCRLA is actively exploring the need for tax relief, government grants, and other payment forbearance options at every level of government.
What can I do to help spread the word that our businesses need assistance?
There are several grassroots campaigns you can join on to help!
- TAKE ACTION: Tell NC lawmakers that hospitality employers and employees need help now!
- TAKE ACTION: Tell Federal Elected Officials How COVID-19 is Impacting Hoteliers
- Text COVID-19 to 52886 to get text updates on policy efforts
- Text RECOVERY to 52886 to advocate for federal business relief from Congress
Where can I can find more info?
What are other states doing with regard to restaurant closings and gatherings?
See the list of information we have compiled in partnership with other state restaurant associations across the country.