Highlands Town Board approves inside takeout at restaurants

Short-term accommodations required to register with Town before reopening

Highlands Town Board held a special meeting this morning and voted unanimously to lift restrictions that limited restaurants to curbside delivery, now allowing inside takeout.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper extended the Stay at Home order through May 8, but the Board’s action goes into effect immediately. Retail businesses are allowed to reopen after 5 p.m. on May 8 with limitations, or when Gov. Cooper implements Phase 1 of his 3-phased plan. Read about three phases HERE.

“I don’t have a problem with it as long as they mark the floors to maximize social distancing and minimize interactions,” said Commissioner Amy Patterson. “As long as businesses follow proper protocols, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Restaurants that open for inside take out must follow protocols for social distancing and hygiene outlined by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention HERE. However, Commissioners said enforcing these protocols would be a challenge.

Commissioner Buz Dotson said if it doesn’t work out, the Board can put the restrictions back into place.

“We’re trying to help them,” said Dotson. “If they don’t want to abide by the protocols we can go back to curbside takeout.”

Dining outside at tables on the restaurant’s premises is still not permitted.

The Board did not have to approve a new order, they voted to modify the current Supplement Proclamation from March 31 by removing restrictions.

A screenshot from the two and half hour Special Town Board Meeting held Friday morning.

Short-Term Accommodations

Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor said short-term accommodations are expected to reopen after May 8 once they register with the Town and only if they follow certain safety requirements as part of a phased plan developed by The Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.

The Chamber’s plan covers a variety of aspects regarding accommodation operations; including but not limited to registration and concierge, point of sale, guest services, public spaces, food and beverage, housekeeping, occupancy, and internal operations.

Chamber Director Kaye McHan said the protocols being developed exceed the CDC’s guidelines in order to protect the safety of business owners, staff, and residents. Accommodation business owners with questions can call  the Chamber at 828.526.2112 or email visitor@highlandschamber.org.

However, no vote was taken because Commissioners said more discussion was needed to finalize the language and scheduled a special meeting at 3 p.m. on May 6.

Taylor said he expects the changes to be approved.

The Short-Term Rental Registration form is available (or soon will be) on the Town’s website HERE and once it is, STRs can begin registration. Allowing STRs to reopen on May 8 is tentative based on when the Gov. Cooper lightens restrictions for Phase 1.

14-Day Quarantine

With the loosening of the Stay at Home order currently scheduled on May 8, the 14-day self-quarantine requirement in the Town’s State of Emergency Proclamation will no longer be mandatory. However, Commissioners stressed that quarantining for 14 days is highly recommended for second home residents and visitors that have resided in other states and countries.

“If you’re allowing hotels and motels to open up, I think the quarantine is done,” said Commissioner Donnie Calloway.

Other Town Board News

Commissioners discussed requiring people to wear face covers in public but decided it should be “strongly encouraged” instead of mandatory, no action was taken.

“The Town can set a good example by everyone using a mask,” said Patterson. “I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t know how to go about mandating it and enforcing it.”

Effective immediately, the tennis courts at the Highlands Rec Park are open, but public restrooms, tables, and benches at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park remain closed.

Article and photo by Brian O’Shea
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