On Thursday, Don Mertrud, the owner and operator of the 13-year-old company Raleigh Rickshaw, apparently had an idea. As you do with ideas, he posted it on Facebook.

It probably didn’t go the way he imagined. 

Understandably, perhaps, Mertrud isn’t the biggest fan of the stay-at-home orders that have brought local nightlife to a halt. The rickshaw business, after all, is predicated on transporting people around downtown Raleigh—on city tours, on dates, to weddings, as well as to restaurants and bars. None of that is happening for at least the next two-and-a-half weeks. He seems to think the city should get going again. 

So he posted an offer to Raleigh Rickshaw’s Facebook page: Reopen your bar or restaurant next week and get free advertising. 

North Carolina’s stay-at-home order runs through April 29. Wake County’s stay-at-home order runs through April 30. While those are in effect, dine-in restaurants and bars can’t open, nor can nonessential businesses. Opening in defiance of the orders would get them in trouble. Ignoring social distancing amid a pandemic could also be quite dangerous. 

Facebook was not amused. The comments were quick and brutal. 

Mertrud soon deleted the post.

Shortly after this story was posted, he emailed: “We have addressed this issue on our Facebook page and consider the matter closed.”

It is perfectly valid to question what state and local officials plan to do to help small businesses get back on their feet. But encouraging bars to reopen during the peak of North Carolina’s coronavirus crisis? 


Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at jbillman@indyweek.com. Additional reporting by Sara Pequeño. 

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