NORFOLK, Va. — Hampton Roads chefs are itching to craft orders for dine-in plates again instead of to-go boxes.
The Commonwealth is set to start Phase One of reopening on Friday.
Retail stores can open at 50 percent capacity. Gyms and theaters will stay closed. Salons and barbershops can see customers by appointment only.
Restaurant owners must continue with carryout and delivery orders. There is one new allowance. Any restaurants with patio or outdoor seating can fill their outdoor spaces at 50 percent capacity.
But the decision to hold off on dine-in services was a blow to some local owners.
“Very disappointing,” said Luce owner/chef Tony Caruana. “I have a lot of people that want to come sit down now. But I have to tell them no based on rules and the laws.”
However, Luce does have some outdoor seating.
“Luckily for myself, my family and my staff, I do have the outdoor seating,” Caruana said. “But, for those who don’t I feel bad.”
A few blocks down Granby Street, Hell’s Kitchen got creative with their lack of patio space.
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The restaurant doesn’t have traditional outdoor seating, but Chef Wayne Crosby said Norfolk City Council gave them permission to put curbside to-go seating across the street a few weeks ago.
“You can come in and order, you can also sit at the table outside,” Crosby said. “That is why we have menus posted and you can just call across the street.”
Lil Bit Nola Restaurant in Virginia Beach also set up a few tables in their parking lot.
“If people want to take the food they get out of here and go sit down, that’s fantastic,” said General Manager Mark Conway.
The restaurant set up three to-go tables at the start of the pandemic as a way for customers to get a few minutes of fresh air.
During Governor Northam’s Monday press conference, a reporter asked the governor if his Phase One guidance for restaurants and non-essential retail is inconsistent by allowing people indoors at the stores, but only outdoors at food establishments.
Gov. Northam said the guidance was made based off input from the business task force, which included restaurant owners from across the Commonwealth.
“I would like to see that as a restaurant person, see those tables fill up again,” Conway said.
While Conway wishes his business was included in Phase 1, he said he’s ok to wait.
“We want to make sure everybody is safe,” Conway said.
Conway and Crosby will keep to-go seating limited in this first phase but hope Phase Two is more generous.
“You have to make the best of every situation,” Crosby said.
So far, Caruana said he has a handful of reservations already for this weekend. He said he plans to follow the strict guidelines to give customers and staff a safe experience.
The state posted 15 daily requirements that restaurants must meet on their website.