'It feels great’: Downtown Roanoke restaurants reopen patios while others stick with to-go

ROANOKE, Va. – Phase 1 of reopening for restaurants and businesses began Friday in Virginia.

Downtown Roanoke saw a mixed bag of restaurants welcoming customers back but also those who are staying the course with curbside and to-go orders. Other will remain closed for the time being.

Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje in Roanoke opened its patio on Friday. One customer said he’d been waiting for weeks.

“We try to support some local stuff but eating at home, staying at home on the weekends kind of been a little tense at times, sort of a bummer. It’s good to get out, so both of us have a day off today and so it’s been enjoyable," said Adam Thacker who lives in Roanoke.

The restaurant had a soft opening on Thursday with curbside and takeout orders so the staff was able to prepare for Friday. They even overstaffed just in case so they could handle all the customers and orders.

Tuco’s has spaced out the tables six feet apart, they’re sanitizing every hour and checking all staff for temperatures. All the staff members are wearing masks and gloves.

The restaurant has been closed entirely for the past two months because of the coronavirus shutdowns, so the manager said it’s exciting to finally serve his customers face to face.

“The service industry is all about people, social interaction. That’s what we do. And to not have that social interaction for so long, it definitely was a little downer. But I’m just excited to see people," said JoJo Soprano, manager, Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje. "We, of course, love talking to the community. We love dealing with everybody here in Roanoke and just serving them the best tacos and tequila they’ll get in town.”

The trouble is that not every restaurant in downtown Roanoke has outdoor seating. Even if some do, it might be too small to maintain proper social distancing. And since it’s outdoor only, weather will play a role in when customers can eat outside.

At the City Market building, Tacos Rojas and Caribbica Soul both utilized their outdoor seating.

Bayou Snowballs plans to open on Saturday. The owner said unfortunately, her patio seating is too cramped, so she’s just going to offer takeout orders. She spent Friday cleaning off tables and getting ready to open the shop.

“We’re excited. And I hope that, you know, everyone will come out and enjoy a snowball. Even if you have to walk around," said Crystal Bolton, owner, Bayou Snowballs.

The only vendor open during lunch at the farmer’s market was Tim Belcher. He said he’s excited to see customers back.

“It feels great. Customer turnout’s been pretty good. I’ve actually been pretty surprised. Because I’ve been here pretty much all winter and we’ve had a lot more foot traffic today," said Tim Belcher, owner of Rolling Meadows Farms in Martinsville.

Not every restaurant has outdoor seating, so Downtown Roanoke Inc. is looking into renting space in Market Square so that restaurants without outdoor patios can rent space, set up tables and bring in more business.

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