The Panthers are playing this weekend, and for the first time in years, you won’t be able to watch the game at Selwyn Pub.
The 30-year-old Myers Park restaurant and bar announced a temporary closure last week. In a message posted on Instagram, the pub cited rising coronavirus numbers as the reason for voluntarily closing.
This came a day after photos emerged of a crowded patio at Selwyn, a place where everyone from Michael Jordan to Pat McCrory have been known to grab a drink.
Then, days later, WBTV reported that before the pub closed, it had been cited for violating the state’s coronavirus capacity restrictions and for allowing patrons to stand maskless while eating and drinking.
The timing raised questions, but Selwyn Pub owner Jim Foster says the decision to temporarily close was made before the citation and wasn’t the result of positive Covid-19 cases among staff.
“We did not want to be part of the Thanksgiving rush,” Foster says of his decision to temporarily close. “We’ve seen what happened with Memorial Day, we’ve seen what happened with the Fourth of July, we’ve seen what happened with the rates for Labor Day. We’ve learned from that.”
Foster, who helped launch a line of face masks earlier this year, says he believed he was adhering to even stricter Covid-19 safety measures than what the state or county required. He was operating at 37 percent capacity when restaurants in the state are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity.
But in a statement sent to the Agenda, the county health department says that Selwyn hasn’t been permitted as a food service establishment since 2013. In October of this year the restaurant re-applied to operate as a restaurant but the process is not yet complete.
Following questions about the permit issues, Foster says he wasn’t aware of the need to take additional steps. He expects to complete the process before the pub reopens.
Why it matters: Foster says he wasn’t able to get clarity on the restrictions before he was cited for breaking them. He says local small businesses can’t operate if there’s no clear understanding of the rules, especially if the enforcers of the rules don’t understand them either.
“The freaking rules. Please for the love of God give us the rules,” he says.
The backstory: On November 14, a member of the Mecklenburg County Covid Ambassadors program visited Selwyn Pub and told Foster to close because he was operating over capacity and was allowing customers to stand. But Foster says previous ambassadors never had a problem with customers standing.
When he asked when the standing rule was implemented, he says the ambassador didn’t know, and that follow-up calls with higher ups with the program didn’t lead to any additional clarity.
“I’m so bitterly disappointed. I feel betrayed,” Foster says of the incident. “Because in good faith we are trying to work with this ambassadors program and instead of spending a little time to find our answer or give us time to find it, they basically called in a raid.”
In another statement sent to the Agenda, county officials cited page three of Governor Cooper’s executive order which requires customers of both restaurants and bars to be seated.
What’s next for Selwyn: The citation could lead to a fine for the pub, but does not require it to close. Foster says he plans to dispute, but will take whatever consequences that come with the final decision.
As for reopening, Foster says he’ll stay closed through the Thanksgiving holiday. He hopes to reopen for takeout in early December once the initial holiday rush slows down.
“It’s financially devastating, but important,” he says of voluntarily closing. “We continue to invest our own personal money to keep this business alive.”