BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — While some Alabama restaurants opened dining rooms for the first time in almost two months Monday, others are still waiting to do so.
Eateries are allowed to open at reduced capacity and with social distancing requirements as part of Governor Kay Ivey’s amended Safer-At-Home order.
The outdoor seating areas were busy at Soho Social in Homewood at lunchtime under sunny skies and mild temperatures.
“We’re pleased. I think we had a lot of people come out. The patio was really busy. I think we are really happy where we are at. I think it is going to be really interesting to see what happens through the day, the night, and through the week,” said Dave Horn with Soho Social.
Horn said the restaurant removed a few tables, but also reconfigured the floor plan to allow for 6 feet of social distancing. Now employees are glad to see customers returning.
“We’ve built ourselves on service and building the relationships with our community and our customers so we’ve definitely bee missing that,” Horn said.
Workers are wearing face coverings and hand sanitizer is on hand in hopes of keeping customers and employees safe.
Not all restaurants made the decision to open Monday.
At Giuseppe’s Cafe in Birmingham, business will remain curbside only for now.
“It’s not as easy as just opening up and seating every other table or 50 percent and going at it,” said owner Joe Williams.
With a smaller dining room area and limited space, Williams is taking a few days to come up with a plan to encourage social distancing.
“What we are working on right now is to kind of do a one way in and one way out, we only have one door, so it flows and you don’t have to cross paths, and probably do reservation only. Those are all things we are going to have to figure out this week,” said Williams.
Toastadas in Homewood also made the decision to open the dining room Monday.
GM Hal Craig said it feels good to see customers again.
“We’re blessed to have a fairly large dining room and so we were able to get the tables spaced out. We won’t be able to serve as many people as before this but hopefully we can serve more people than we have been,” said Craig.
Craig feels fortunate after the support from neighbors who placed to-go orders for almost two months.
“Just seeing how God has provided for us when a lot of other restaurants haven’t made it, it’s just one of those things that we feel very blessed to still be here because we see a lot of people didn’t make it,” said Craig.
While restaurant owners are cautiously optimistic about the future, health leaders caution that the threat of COVID-19 remains.
Some businesses think the experience from the shutdown may bring lasting changes.
“I think it is a new normal and I think curbside might last forever,” said Williams.
While a move to curbside was a major change for his business, he said his customers have been beyond supportive.
“We just love what we do. It’s like a big family here,” Williams continued. “We’ve been fortunate that a lot of regulars and people have stayed by us and ordered a lot of food and were generous with the tips so it has allowed us to stay afloat during these times.”
For updates on the opening of Giuseppe’s Cafe, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.
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