Afternoon Observer: Feb. 24

Kristen Kornbluth
·4 min read

Good afternoon, Charlotte. This is Kristen, back from a long weekend to deliver you today’s news. If you’re a fan of art and enjoy consuming works that focus on social justice and history, Charlotte’s Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art will soon have an exhibit that may interest you. The work of Stephen L. Hayes Jr., a Durham-based artist known for a focus on the Black experience in America, will be on display from March 5-April 24 in an exhibit titled “Beyond Any Means.” Find more details here from the Observer’s Heidi Finley.

Now, let’s talk about today’s news:

1. Reactions around Charlotte to loosened COVID rules

Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s coronavirus executive order restrictions, Charlotte bars and restaurants, Billy Sunday at Optimist Hall shown, will now be able to seat indoors at 30% capacity and sell alcohol until 11 p.m.
Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s coronavirus executive order restrictions, Charlotte bars and restaurants, Billy Sunday at Optimist Hall shown, will now be able to seat indoors at 30% capacity and sell alcohol until 11 p.m.

After Gov. Roy Cooper eased several statewide coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, Charlotte-area bars, restaurants and sports sites are applauding the looser rules. The decision comes as the state sees a significant drop in new cases since the start of 2021. Among the rule changes: bars can start serving people inside again and offering late-night alcohol sales.

Some other details about the updated order:

  • Outdoor amphitheaters and concert venues can reopen at 30% capacity.

  • There are 50% capacity restrictions on businesses and retail establishments, like restaurants, breweries and wineries, retail stores and gyms.

  • The order takes effect Friday at 5 p.m. and lasts until March 26.

“We’re excited. I think the bar community, in general, will feel a big sigh of relief,” said Larisa Yanicak, beverage director for Backstage Lounge at Southbound on South Boulevard.

Find all the details here with the Observer’s Catherine Muccigrosso, Joe Marusak and Alaina Getzenberg.

2. Belk bankruptcy plan approved, offering iconic retailer a lifeline

In the Charlotte-based department store’s latest financial move, Belk filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Houston late Tuesday. The plan was approved Wednesday morning, giving the company a new infusion of capital — and debt relief to the tune of about $450 million.

It’s the first step in the retail icon’s reorganization plan that saw its owner, Sycamore Partners, cede a large stake of the company to its lenders while maintaining control. Belk only had $7 million of available cash when it filed for bankruptcy, Matt Fagen, one of Belk’s lawyers, said in the bankruptcy hearing.

What’s next for the company? The Observer’s Austin Weinstein walks you through it here.

3. Affordable cottages welcome residents ‘home again’ in Charlotte

Rachel Cody, Director of Marketing for Home Again Foundation, center, talks about the cottages during the opening of the new affordable housing community, launched by the nonprofit in Charlotte on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. The group has built 8 single family units with energy efficient affordable units with goals of expansion with further fundraising. The program will have additional services to help people improve their financial stability.
Rachel Cody, Director of Marketing for Home Again Foundation, center, talks about the cottages during the opening of the new affordable housing community, launched by the nonprofit in Charlotte on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. The group has built 8 single family units with energy efficient affordable units with goals of expansion with further fundraising. The program will have additional services to help people improve their financial stability.

North Charlotte is home to eight new gray cottages, and the leaders of a local nonprofit see the structures as the start of a new way to tackle the city’s affordable housing crisis.

The Home Again Foundation, which focuses on giving people safe shelter, will soon move the first seven households into the newly-built cottage community on Cochrane Drive, off Statesville Road in north Charlotte. The effort aims to reduce roadblocks to housing and keep people out of homelessness, as the Observer’s Lauren Lindstrom reports.

The cottages are built from recycled materials from old automobiles, a factor that will keep costs down for tenants.

By the numbers:

  • Rents will range from $480 for a studio and up to $1,095 for a three bedroom

  • Individuals and families with household incomes 60% of area median income and below are eligible.

The goal is building long-term financial stability, said Chief Housing and Program Officer Vickie Craighead-Davis.

4. How to be COVID-safe on Charlotte’s patios

As Observer reporter Amanda Zhou reminds us, just because you are outside does not mean you cannot catch the virus. That’s important to keep in mind as the weather gets nicer and more folks flock to outdoor dining and drinking options.

Some recommendations for being safe as a patron:

  • Just get take-out. It’s safer, according to the CDC.

  • Keep your mask on at all moments you’re able.

  • Check for ventilation and spacing at the establishment you’re patronizing.

Charlotte has a lot to enjoy — stay safe while you do!

On tap: Hoptown Brewing Co. is opening near Charlotte

Hoptown Brewing Co. will soon open its doors in Mooresville.
Hoptown Brewing Co. will soon open its doors in Mooresville.

Perhaps best known in the area for the pop-up Hootenanny Brewing Co., this Mooresville couple is opening a brewery in the northern suburb. The brewery’s name? Hoptown Brewing Co.

Scott Plemmons, who is opening the brewery with his wife, Sandy Plemmons, said the new spot will be the first of at least three Hoptown locations. As CharlotteFive’s Daniel Hartis reports, their plan is to bring the neighborhood brewery model to underserved areas that aren’t as brewery-dense as Charlotte.

True to the brewery’s name, patrons can expect plenty of IPA varieties, in addition other offerings like pale ale, blonde ale, milk stout and coffee vanilla porter.

One last thing:

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