’The bills do not stop because of a pandemic’: Virginia businesses prepare for latest reopening plan

Restaurants will still have to abide by a 10-customer limit

ROANOKE, Va. – Businesses across the commonwealth are now preparing a plan to reopen in 10 days.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said on Monday that May 15 is the earliest Phase 1 could begin.

That means struggling restaurants will have to wait at least another week to welcome any customers for dining in.

“It’s been a total game changer. We literally had to change our entire business model overnight,” said Jerry Smith, who’s the senior director of the Roanoke Regional Restaurant Group which owns Food Fanatics and Our Daily Bread. “The bills do not stop because of a pandemic.”

With an extra week, restaurants are now focusing their attention on what reopening will look like with a 10-customer cap and social distancing measures still in place.

“It's actually helped us a little. It's giving us time to prepare for staffing levels, for ordering, for food,” Smith said.

Some are less optimistic about the latest plan.

“One-size-fits-all does not necessarily work,” said Roanoke County Board of Supervisors chairman David Radford.

Last week, the board sent a letter to the governor, urging him to reopen regionally. With the announcement Monday, that’s off the table.

Radford said he’s disappointed because it's time to get Southwest Virginia back on track.

“We've got to trust the people that they're going to do the right thing, they're going to follow the guidelines,” Radford said.

Smith said he’ll make sure people are doing the right thing with his own new policies, but he’s thankful there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

“We're going to learn as we go,” Smith said. “It'd be great to get back to some sense of normalcy soon so we can just ensure that we are here next year.”

There's also some concern over whether Virginia really will reopen next Friday.

Northam said it will happen, unless something changes drastically.

The governor’s office is expected to send new guidelines out to non-essential businesses this week.

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