Restaurant owners eager, excited that eating out is once again an option in Raleigh

Posted May 22, 2020 5:22 a.m. EDT
Updated May 23, 2020 7:54 a.m. EDT

— The doors to restaurants across North Carolina swung open at 5 p.m. Friday, when state restrictions prohibiting dine-in service to limit the spread of coronavirus were lifted.

Restaurants had been limited to drive-thru, takeout or delivery service since late March, and they happily greeted customers eager for a chance to eat out Friday.

"Yes!" said an enthusiastic Steve Thanhauser, co-owner of The Angus Barn Restaurant in Raleigh.

Like other restaurants, The Angus Barn had to take extensive steps to comply with rules the state still has in place for them to operate.

"The amount of time and effort and thinking that you have to do to go – all right, I used to do it this way, now how am I adapting and exceeding the rules?" Thahauser said. "[You go through] everything from how do you serve pitchers of water to all our guests to how you greet them and escort them to their table."

Restaurants are limited to half capacity and are required to have at least 6 feet between tables, so they have blocked off booths and moved tables farther apart.

"Anything that has a 6 feet social distancing sign on it is out of play. We are not seating that table," said Nick Leach, regional manager of Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. "We want to make sure we are welcoming guests back in a safe environment."

Bad Daddy's also taped off all of its bar seating. Customers waiting for a table will be asked to sit in their cars until called, Leach said.

"We are excited to get it going," he said.

Likewise, visitors who used to grab a drink and wait in an outdoor area of The Angus Barn will have to wait elsewhere. The restaurant has converted the area to accommodate more seating since its indoor occupancy was reduced.

Other steps restaurants are taking include installing plexiglass partitions between tables or to separate staff from customers, having staff wear masks and gloves, using paper menus that can be thrown away, providing hand sanitizer and ramping up cleaning.

At Big Ed’s restaurant in downtown Raleigh, 50 percent capacity means 80 people can be served at a time. Staff have removed several tables to make space and, since the restaurant is a popular meeting place, staff will have to make sure everyone stays at their tables and practices social distancing, according to managers.

Other restaurants won't open right away. Those that do will compare their protocol with other restaurants.

"I did speak to some other restaurants that have decided to stay closed for a little longer," said Sammy Hobgood from Big Ed's.

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