Opinion: Daily Journal

Cooper’s message to N.C. business owners: ‘You don’t matter’

Gov. Roy Cooper (pool photo)
Gov. Roy Cooper (pool photo)

“You don’t matter.”

Three words. Eloquent in their simplicity, biting in their clarity.

They come from a letter, posted on Facebook, from the N.C. Bar and Tavern Association. They come a day after the group’s founder, Zack Medford, who, in a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper, writes poignantly about how the lockdowns have crippled his industry. Have cost him so much.

“You can’t imagine how hard it is to watch all you’ve built up be destroyed — and your family’s future evaporate — while lines outside your competitors’ bars are filled with the patrons you used to serve,” he writes. “Even ABC stores have posted record sales while we face ruin.”

You don’t matter.

The governor said as much Tuesday, Sept. 1, when Cooper, as has become his style, flippantly announced that bars, as well as movie theaters and other entertainment venues, will remain closed. For some six months now. Cooper also decided to close cigar bars and hookah lounges, and anywhere else where people are allowed to smoke indoors. 

These businesses were open. Before Tuesday.

The move against smoking lounges is a direct, vindictive response to a lawsuit against Cooper by an owner of a hookah lounge in Charlotte. Authorities indiscriminately closed his business, even though, the owner says, he wasn’t violating any of the governor’s rules. The governor, through his latest order, made sure he now certainly would be.

Reprehensible. All of it.

“How can the responsibility of coronavirus be laid solidly on one set of businesses? How is that fair?” bar tavern owners write in their latest post. “Why are bars the only institution that can’t be given a chance to play by safety rules and survive this pandemic?

“They have done nothing to help us,” they continue, referring to the Cooper administration. “They won’t even respond to our requests for a meeting to explain what has to happen for us to reopen.”

He won’t acknowledge Carolina Journal, either.

“They don’t tell us why they think private bars cannot follow the same safety rules the rest of the industry is subject to — even though bars are more experienced than most businesses in bouncing bad actors.”

Cooper doesn’t care.

It’s infuriating to watch news readers and editorial writers from around the state talk about these lockdowns and suppressions as if the governor is doing us all a favor by “moving forward” with reopening. It’s as if they’re paid cheerleaders for the administration, incessantly repeating the same nonsense — like the governor’s followers — about keeping us safe and leading us through these difficult, unprecedented, uncertain, challenging, demanding times.

Shut the hell up, already.

As I wrote that line, I got a news alert about a heat advisory, something about it feeling like 107 degrees Fahrenheit. I planned to work out Wednesday night, in a makeshift gym on a tennis court outdoors. Safe as can be. Oh, wait, work “outside” is canceled. Too hot.

You don’t matter.

The COVID-19 numbers across North Carolina flatlined weeks ago, yet Cooper was busy playing politics. He opened gyms, at 30% capacity, only because many had already opened in defiance, because people got doctors to prescribe exercise, which I’ve heard is good for you and helps to stave off — oh, I don’t know — deadly viruses!

The hypocrisy is appalling, shameless. From many quarters. People castigate one politician for being crass and unfit for office. But at the same time these same people heap praise on another, for his empathy and leadership, even as he takes a proverbial jackhammer to the economy. 

Piles of dust and debris, North Carolinians lost in the rubble. Of their businesses, their futures. Their lives.

Bar owners, staff, patrons, and supporters will gather at the governor’s mansion from 3-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, to protest Cooper’s continued shutdown. Masks are required.

“Over 7,000 alcohol establishments have been opened in NC-restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, casinos, bowling alleys, hotel bars, country clubs-leaving us 1,063 PRIVATE BARS closed. Sitting back watching our businesses be destroyed!,” organizers write.

I pray Cooper will listen, but I’m guessing he won’t.

He doesn’t care. 

“You don’t matter.”