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Restaurants prepare to open patios for sit-down customers Friday

Posted at 4:39 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 18:25:21-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A handful of Richmond restaurants will be welcoming customers for a sit-down meal on the first day of Governor Ralph Northam’s Phase One plan to re-open the state.

On Friday, Virginia’s restaurants, breweries, bars and wineries will be allowed to offer outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity.

“Phase One represents a small step forward,” Gov. Northam said during his Wednesday COVID-19 press briefing. “We will require face masks for businesses like restaurants and salons.”

On Wednesday, John Taxin spruced up his patio at Bookbinder’s Seafood and Steakhouse on East Cary Street. The Shockoe Bottom fine dining restaurant prepared to seat customers for the first time in months.

“We have a strong business, great following, great customers, great reviews, and great staff,” Taxin described. “The key is to do it right.”

Related: Here's what dining out looks like in Virginia during Phase One reopening

Taxin began accepting reservations ahead of the re-opening. His Friday reservations are already sold out.

“I know we are going to sell out this weekend,” he explained.

He used measuring tape and chalk to separate tables six feet apart.

Normally 50 people are seated during dinner service on the patio. On Friday, they will seat 25 customers at a time.

“We have a person we use who will install foot guards so people can open the doors with their feet,” Taxin stated. “I’m going to have little stations inside and outside the doors so people can use a paper towel to open the door and throw it in the trash.”

Bookbinder’s servers will wear gloves and masks and hand out disposable menus.

“We asked who wants to come back and who doesn’t want to come back. I’m not forcing anybody to come back to work who’s uncomfortable,” Taxin said.

Legend Brewing Company on West 7th Street also announced their plans to reopen their patio and beer garden to 50 percent capacity on Friday.

“We will continue to adhere to social distancing regulations and maintaining hightened [sic] safety measures. We're doing our part to keep you safe, so please do your part for the health of our staff and other guests,” the Manchester restaurant wrote on Facebook.

However, Helen’s Restaurant on West Main Street stated they’re not re-opening their outdoor space on Friday.

“We do not yet see sufficient evidence of a steady decline in cases, or adequate testing capacity, and we feel it necessary for us to make our decisions around the health of our whole community above all else. We do not want to be make any hasty decisions and we will carefully weigh each one as we have thus far,” Helen’s owner posted on Facebook.

The restaurant, located in the Fan district, said it will continue offering curbside and takeout options.

“I don’t begrudge anybody who wants to take precautions above and beyond,” Taxin said. “If my people did not want to work, I would not be doing this.”

Places of worship and retail will be allowed to operate indoors with 50 percent capacity. Barber shops, salons, and tattoo shops can offer services by appointment only.

Gyms, pools, and entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys will remain closed.

Northam issued Executive Order Sixty-Two Tuesday, which allows specific localities in Northern Virginia to delay entering Phase One of the reopening plan scheduled to begin on Friday, May 15.

“This virus has not gone away and everyone needs to act accordingly,” Northam said.

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