To be clear: I’m not in favor of a rash reopening, though reopening quickly and fully would probably be good for this newspaper’s bottom line, at least in the short term. I worry that we are collectively wishing the virus away, pretending that if we act like it’s no longer there, it won’t be. This weekend, I drove an hour or so outside of the Triangle to go hiking; outside of the urban areas, there wasn’t a mask to be found. The pictures of the packed speedway in Alamance (not to mention the crowded pool in the Ozarks) have me convinced that we’re about to stupidly march ourselves into a second wave because we got bored.   

And for the most part, I think Governor Cooper has handled an impossible situation about as well as anyone could have. By the metrics, North Carolina has outperformed most of its neighbors. 

Just as important, he’s been steady and calm throughout. He charted a course and stuck to it. I could pick nits, of course, but seeing as how he’s been faced with life-and-death decisions balancing a deadly pandemic and calamitous economic ruin, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt—and to view those trying to make mountains out of molehills (heya, Dan Forest) as petty opportunists showing us their asses. 

But there is one thing that arose last week that strikes me as nonsensical. When Cooper announced the move to phase 2, he drew a line between restaurants, which could open at half-capacity, and bars, which could not open at all. Breweries, wineries, and distilleries demanded clarity about which category they’d be lumped into. Within a day, the administration allowed them to open. Not bars, however. That’s a bridge too far. 

Which prompts the question: To a virus, what exactly is the difference between a brewery and a bar? Between a place that serves beer and wine and a place that serves beer and cocktails? 

The concern, obviously, is crowds. But if all of these places were required to abide by the same social distancing rules—nightclubs were forced to put spaced-out tables on the dance-floor, for instance, and bars had to follow the same guidelines as restaurants—would there really be an additional risk? 

What exactly is the justification for decoupling one class of businesses from their competitors? Maybe there’s a good reason. But I haven’t heard it. 

The administration should probably figure one out. I imagine a judge will want to hear it soon enough. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at

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