'We’re all in this together’: Local restaurants prepare to resume outdoor dine-in service starting Friday

Outdoor dining areas can only be half-full

ROANOKE, Va. – If you have been waiting to go out and eat a nice meal at a restaurant, the wait is almost over.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s Phase One reopening plan allows restaurants with outdoor seating to resume dine-in service, starting Friday.

Restaurants will only have the ability to serve customers in outdoor seating areas, and the areas must always be below half of their capacity.

It’s a welcome change for restaurateur Nathan Webster. He temporarily closed his restaurants, Village Grill and Scratch Biscuit Company, two months ago as COVID-19 started to spread.

“We closed as soon as all of this stuff started just as a precautionary move to make sure we knew what we were doing moving ahead," Webster said.

Both of his restaurants will re-open under the new guidelines. Village Grill will re-open Friday, and Scratch Biscuit Company will follow suit on Monday.

“We can pay our bills, pay our staff, and get some money back into the economy," Webster sad. “It’s big. I think every small business owner does not want to sit at home right now.”

Across town, The Green Goat has offered take-out service through the pandemic, but owner Bruce Todaro said business is only a sliver of what it had been.

“With take-out only, I was down to about 10% of my regular business," Todaro said.

The Green Goat also has outdoor seating, and Todaro hopes the loosened restrictions will help him recoup some of the business he lost.

“I’m hoping to get up to 25% of my regular sales at this point," Todaro said. “Hopefully we can bring back a full staff within two more weeks if it stays strong.”

Both owners worry the outdoor seating compromise will negatively affect restaurants without the capability to take their food service outside.

“You don’t want to see any local restaurant close," Webster said. “As much as we say we’re competition, we’re all in this together.”

Webster said the new rules will make it easier for restaurants like his, but there is still a long way to go towards the status quo.

“It’s going to be tight for a while, but I think that’s the small business dream," Webster said. "You have to hustle ahead, grind away, and get it done.”

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