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Restaurant owners applaud easing of COVID restrictions, hopeful for more

Posted at 5:35 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 18:40:58-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearly one year after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted strict business regulations designed to help slow the spread of the virus, Virginia has entered a new phase of looser restrictions.

Among the changes, Virginia restaurants are now allowed to serve alcohol until midnight, two hours later than the previous 10 p.m. cutoff.

"I'm more of a sit-down restaurant. But I know from having the experience in the bar life that it is key and important to stay open until 12 midnight," Shane Roberts-Thomas, owner of Southern Kitchen in Richmond, said. "Most of the crowd where you're going to get the majority of your alcohol sales is going to be after seven or eight o'clock. So that's the issue."

Roberts-Thomas said she cut back on hours and days of operation at her Jackson Ward restaurant because of COVID-safety restrictions.

But as restrictions eased, she said she hoped to add those hours back.

She was hopeful COVID cases continue trending down, so more restrictions would be removed.

"I think that we would love to see the industry go back to some normalcy in regards to how the restaurant is set up," she said.

It's been anything but normal at the Diamond - home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels minor league baseball team.

"We've been devastated, just absolutely devastated," Todd "Parney" Parnell, Flying Squirrels COO, said. "We haven't had any revenue since, to speak of since 2019."

He said he welcomed loosened capacity limits on outdoor sports venues that went into effect Monday.

"We're very much prepared and preparing on a daily basis to make sure that we do this safely," he said.

The limit moved from 250 people to 1000 people or 30% of the venue's capacity -- whichever number was smaller.

Parney said he looked forward to Governor Ralph Northam's statement that if things go well in March -- that the 1,000 person cap would be dropped and they could allow in around 3,000 fans.

"This is all about safely, step by step by step by step," Parney said. "We're not going to sprint back into normality, we're just not."

Other changes that went into effect Monday include the limit on outdoor social gatherings expanded from 10 to 25 people and the removal of the overnight curfew.