Restaurants, Stores Prepping To Resume Some Operations Friday In State's First Phase Of Reopening
Updated May 15, 1:09 p.m.
After nearly two months of struggling to turn profits or closing altogether, many Hampton Roads businesses can begin resuming some operations Friday.
As part of Virginia’s first phase of lifting restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants can reopen outdoor patios at half capacity. Retail stores, salons and churches can also resume service at 50% capacity while following social distancing restrictions.
"All of us business owners are hopeful that business is going to increase with this," said Bob Roberts, the owner of Redwood Smoke Shack off Norfolk’s Colley Avenue. "We all have to be very smart on how it’s done just following these regulations to make sure everyone stays safe."
Governor Ralph Northam has said the initial phase of reopening Virginia businesses could last two to four weeks. Barring any rise in COVID-19 cases, the state could then lift more restrictions in additional phases.
Restaurants and stores in Accomack County, Richmond and Northern Virginia will remain closed until at least the end of May. The areas are experiencing higher rates of confirmed cases than other parts of the state.
As the coronavirus continues to ravage the economy, social distancing and Northam’s stay-at-home order have been especially brutal for restaurants. Many have continued takeout and delivery service but have had to lay off workers. Others have completely closed because takeout and delivery alone isn’t profitable.
Some owners have been unsure whether their restaurants will ever reopen again.
Roberts said Redwood Smoke Shack has continued to receive business, though revenue has decreased. In addition to closing dine-in service, the restaurant has halted its catering and food trailer options.
His staff is now using stronger cleaning chemicals and sanitizing more often. The restaurant is also reorganizing its patio space to allow for social distancing when it partially resumes in-dining Friday.
Roberts said the outdoor area will now seat about 25 to 30 people. It usually holds 58 people.
"We’re reducing our tables from nine down to four," Roberts said. "And then what we’re going to do is take another one of those couple tables that we’re taking out and putting it in the first two parking spots by that patio."
He said he will start slow-cooking brisket and meat Thursday. Still, he remains unsure what the partial reopening will mean for businesses. Customers who are "uneasy during this crazy" time, probably won’t eat out, he said.
Jim Carroll, executive director of the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads, added it will be costly for many businesses to partially reopen and install protections like sneeze guards and floor markings for social distancing.
"You’re going to have a lot of expenses, right upfront, and you’re not going to be selling that much product. People have changed their buying habits to now where they’re very comfortable buying online," he said Monday on WHRV’s HearSay with Cathy Lewis.
Kevin O’Connor, owner of O’Connor Brewing in Norfolk, is opening the microbrewery’s patio during the state’s first phase of lifting restrictions.
He said his staff will limit the patio space to possibly below 50% capacity. Signs and stickers on the ground will help direct people and maintain social distancing, he said.
"We’re still brewing beer," he said on HearSay. "But we don’t want to get sick either. It’s not just for the customer. It’s also for our staff."