Midlands restaurant owners say new executive order simply codifies what they’ve been practicing for months

The new executive order requires masks at restaurants and bars, and also prohibits standing and congregating around bars

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —If you have gone out to eat over the last few days, you might have seen some changes at your favorite bars and restaurants

Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC)’s new executive order requires customers and staff to wear a mask whenever they are inside an establishment, prohibits indoor capacity to 50%, and preventing gathering around a bar. The new executive order took effect on Monday, August 3.

“That was an accelerate SC recommendation, it is now the law. Standing or congregating in the bar area of a restaurant is prohibited,” Gov. McMaster said during a press conference on July 29.

The Governor also reinforced his mandate that bars and restaurants stop serving alcohol after 11 p.m., and for people to social distance at establishments.

Steve Cook, the owner of Saluda’s in Five Points, said they’ve been following the rules since the pandemic began, and that this new executive order is a formality.

“The executive order that came down doesn’t really change much for us. It just kind of codifies into law what was suggestions or recommendations that we’ve been following to the tee since the beginning,” Cook said.

In South Carolina, one in five people who have tested positive COVID-19 are between the ages of 21 and 30. 

Some restaurant owners say the new executive order seeks to limit overcrowding, especially at bars, but some say these new restrictions should not imply that all establishments are unsafe.

“You know, I can’t help but feel like there’s this sort of feeling that restaurants aren’t doing enough, that is not the case in my experience. Restaurants are going above and beyond in almost every circumstance that I’ve seen,” Cook said.

Bobby Williams, CEO of Lizard’s Thicket and the Chair of the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, said law enforcement can’t be everywhere at once, so it’s on restaurant owners to make sure customers and staff are keeping each other safe.

“So everyone needs to come together and enforce, and I think most people are, there are few people always, but most people who’ve been in business for a while, have a great reputation, you’ve trusted us before, you’ll trust us again we’ll do the right thing,” Williams said.

Restaurants who violate the executive order the first time will get a warning, then they could lose their license for any future violations.

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