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Norfolk restaurants remain hopeful for Valentine’s Day as some reimagine romantic dinners

Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion less this Valentine’s Day, said the National Retail Federation. But the weekend could still be good for restaurants.

NORFOLK, Va. — This Valentine’s Day, Cupid will bring a much-needed shot in the arm for Hampton Roads restaurants.

“It couldn’t have fallen on a better day -- Sunday -- because we get the whole weekend: Friday Saturday and Sunday,” said Todd Jurich, founder and owner of Todd Jurich’s Bistro in downtown Norfolk.

Jurich has been in business for nearly 30 years and has never experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other restaurants, it’s been a challenging year for an eatery that benefits from foot traffic created by popular outdoor events in the area.

The romantic holiday comes at a good time.

“We are already booked,” said Jurich. “And people are ready to go out.”

Still, adjustments must be made to accommodate for COVID-19 safety protocols. The bistro will only seat up roughly 90 people per night, said Jurich. It is a good crowd, but the restaurant has hosted more than 120 people in past years on this holiday weekend.

“We have to social distance, and we can only do so many people,” he said.

Of course, many people will opt to stay in their homes.

According to a study by the National Retail Federation, 24 percent of people surveyed said they will go out this year – the lowest in the survey’s history.

“People want that special moment, but they want it at home,” said Omar Boukhriss, owner of Omar’s Carriage House in Norfolk. “We had to come up with something creative, something new.”

For the first time, Boukhriss will cater Valentine’s Day meals. The restaurant is offering a special dinner-for-two for couples who do not want to leave their homes.

This is the latest way he and his staff have had to think outside the box since last year.

“Anybody who says it is easy to walk through this pandemic,” he said. “It’s not true. Because it is very hard.”

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