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Split Decision

North Carolina moved into Phase 2 of reopening on Friday (May 22) and that comes with good news, particularly for restaurants and personal care businesses.

But will local businesses that are included in this latest round of reopening take advantage of the opportunity?

“We’ll wait to see how things go, I guess,” said John Taylor of John’s Seafood and Steaks in downtown Murfreesboro. “I’m hoping people will go on out and do things. I think most people are ready to go out and get back to normal.”

Taylor’s business has been closed during most of the pandemic due to the slower traffic, and he used the time to clean and sanitize the restaurant. He re-opened May 20 for take-out only.

He plans to re-open, using 50% of his dining area, while practicing social distancing and sanitation efforts using masks, gloves and hand sanitizing locations around the restaurant.

Hours will be the same.

“I’m glad to get my staff back. I had a good crew before we closed, I was worried about getting them all back,” he joked.

One block away, the owner of Napolis Restaurant said he would reopen for dine-in meals at 5 pm on May 22, using 50 percent of the space – “every other table to maintain the required social distancing.”

Except for a few weeks in April, Napolis has been opened for take-out only.

David Shields, owner of the Golden Skillet in Ahoskie and Little Golden Skillet in Windsor, said he thinks it’s too early to reopen the dining rooms for sit-down meals.

“That’s just my line of thinking,” he said on Friday. “I think we’re moving too quickly. I do not want to put my staff in any more jeopardy.”

Shields said his restaurants will continue to offer take-out meals for the next couple of weeks.

“If I see that this Phase 2 plan is working well by that time, or even earlier, I’ll consider reopening my dining rooms,” he noted.

Rachel Pierce of the Heritage House in Windsor said she plans to reopen her dining room for “sit-down meals” starting Saturday, May 23.

The staff there were busy most of Friday continuing to serve take-out orders and preparing the restaurant for re-opening.

Ellen Hughes, owner of Ellen’s Hair Affair said she stopped counting after having to cancel over 200 appointments when the Governor shut down “non-essential” businesses – which included here – in March.

She was busy all of Friday, May 22 with rescheduling those in preparation of re-opening following the Phase 2 order.

“I have been in business for 34 years and have never—and hope to never again—seen anything like this,” Hughes exclaimed.

Hughes said she will follow all the mandated regulations to re-open her business, to include servicing only one client at the time; having herself and her customers wearing face masks; directing customers to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer upon entering and before leaving the salon; and practice social distancing of at least 6 feet, to the greatest extent possible, at all times.

Hughes stressed that she will take the temperature of her customers as they enter the salon. If fever is present, they will be asked to reschedule at least 14 days out. If no fever is present, they will be asked to complete a questionnaire concerning their recent medical history and COVID-19.

Betty’s Catering and Southern Diner in Aulander has been closed since March 22.

“We tried the take-out only thing, but it wasn’t working for us,” said owner Betty Drake.

She plans to re-open for dine-in and take-out on June 2, following the strict guidelines from the state.

“We’ll use every other booth / table, that will give us more than the mandated six feet of distance,” Drake said.

Drake added that she and her staff will use the coming week to thoroughly clean the restaurant and prepare for the June 2 reopening.

“Even then, we expect it’s going to take some time for people to get comfortable again – feel safe – to go out for a sit-down meal,” Drake stressed.

Kathy Whitley, owner of Claudine’s Restaurant in Rich Square, said they would keep their dining room closed until the state moves into Phase Three. Because of all the restrictions restaurants have to follow under reopening during Phase Two, she said it wouldn’t be financially feasible and she didn’t want to put her staff at risk.

In the meantime, Claudine’s will continue offering takeout service only.

“It’s been very stressful, but we’ve made it through. I’m doing okay doing takeout. My business has been pretty good,” Whitley said. “I’ll just be glad when this gets better and we can all get back to somewhat normal.”

Bay Sire Bistro in Jackson is another restaurant that does not plan to reopen right now, but owner Billy Futrell said that was due to a number of reasons, including the recent passing of their head cook, Michael Branch.

He said they do eventually plan on reopening the restaurant, but he had no definite timeline yet on when they would be. Right now, he said they’re keeping everything clean and will probably focus on developing takeout service.

“In the near future, people are still going to be hesitant to go out,” Futrell said.

Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced Wednesday that North Carolina will move into Safer At Home Phase 2 of lifting COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, May 22 at 5 pm.

After two weeks in Phase 1, the state’s overall key indicators remain stable, but the continued increases in daily case counts signal a need to take a more modest step forward in Phase 2 than originally envisioned.

Phase 2 allows the reopening (with restrictions) of the following businesses:

Restaurants to open for on-premises dining with limits on occupancy, specific requirements for disinfection of common spaces, and six feet between each group of customers sitting at each table;

Child care businesses to open to serve all children, as long as they follow state health guidelines;

Overnight camps can operate, following specific public health requirements and guidance;

Personal care, grooming, massage, and tattoo businesses can open with specific requirements for disinfection of equipment, face coverings for the service providers, six feet of distance between customers, and at 50 percent reduced occupancy;

Allows indoor and outdoor pools to open with 50 percent reduced occupancy, following specific public health requirements;

Allows people to gather together for social purposes, so long as they do not exceed the mass gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors (excluding religious services); and

Allows sporting and entertainment events to occur in large venues for broadcast to the public, so long as the events occur in large venues and spectators are limited to the mass gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

The governor did update his Phase 2 plan on Friday to allow for the opening of breweries, taprooms, and brewpubs. They were able to open as of 5 p.m. on May 22.

However, there are some businesses that will remain closed, to include bars and nightclubs, movie theaters, museums, bowling alleys, amusement parks, arcades, skating rinks, Bingo parlors and other gaming establishments. Public playgrounds also remain closed.

Phase 2 lifts the Stay At Home order moving into a Safer At Home recommendation, especially for people at high risk for serious illness. Teleworking is also urged when possible.

Retail businesses allowed to open in Phase 1 at 50% capacity will continue at that level.

Public health recommendations are provided for worship services to practice enhanced social distancing and other cleaning and hygiene practices.

The Safer At Home Phase 2 runs through at least Friday, June 26.