RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - From Richmond’s Mayor to the President, leaders are re-enforcing the call for Americans to stop gathering in large groups, including restaurants and bars.
Several of those establishments across the city of Richmond have temporarily closed or altered operations.
The Trump administration said Monday that the public should avoid gatherings larger than 10 people and cancel discretionary travel, among other social distancing guidelines, in a bid to slow the coronavirus outbreak.
While closing up shop is something most restaurants don’t want to do, many owners who spoke with NBC12 said it’s the best way of trying to stop this virus from spreading.
“We’re not going to escape this if we don’t change what we’re doing right now,” said Susan Davenport, co-owner of Tazza Kitchen.
Davenport and her partners made the difficult decision over the weekend to close down Tazza Kitchen's dining rooms for the foreseeable future.
“Even with separating the tables, people were coming in with groups of six or ten people, friends and especially a lot of young people,” she said. “We could really see how hard it is to grasp social distancing when they’re in a social environment."
“Just socially we feel like it was the right thing to do,” said Lee Gregory, Chef-Owner of Alewife.
Gregory is the chef-owner of Alewife and chef-part-owner Southbound in Richmond which are also closed down to in-person service. However, like many places, including Tazza Kitchen, some restaurants are offering a different kind of option for food.
“Just trying to scale down, stay afloat, and remain open for to-go food, pickup food,” Gregory said.
“You can order online and we’ll bring it out to your car,” Davenport said. “It’s a very limited staff and those staff members are actually going to be on really strict guidelines on where they go and what they do after hours… "I know how much this impacts the businesses, but we have got to get this under control and this is the only way we will right now."
Meanwhile there are several restaurants that have shut down operations for the time being.
"I walked up and seen only a few cars and I said hmmm, this looks kind of dreary," said Carroll Sample.
Sample used to work at Perly’s Restaurant & Delicatessen on E. Grace Street as a teenager. Now the restaurant has closed shop until the coronavirus can get under control.
"I've never experienced anything like this in my life,” Sample said. “A lot of people probably feel the same way I do. It's kind of dreary, kind of sad, but you just have to pray, keep your hands washed and just do the right thing to protect ourselves."
“We remain positive and we will get through this,” Davenport said. “That’s what we’re telling people.”
On Monday, Richmond City Mayor Levar Stoney recommended all restaurants, bars and other establishments that serve food and drink within city limits to eliminate bar seating, move tables at least six feet apart and limit their on-site service to 50 percent of their normal capacity.
“If 50 percent of capacity exceeds the CDC-recommended limit of 50 people gathered, establishments should limit their service to 50 or fewer patrons,” a news release said.
However, the recommendation does not affect carry-out opportunities.
Stoney also announced his administration will introduce an ordinance on March 23 outlining a city amnesty program for all penalties and interest on most local taxes due between March 13 and June 30, 2020. The proposed program would exclude personal property taxes on vehicles, motor vehicle license taxes, and vehicle license fees, as required by ordinance.
The city is also looking into options for a program to issue small, no-interest loans to support small businesses.
“This measure is taken in an abundance of caution and in the interest of the health of restaurant patrons and staff. I understand that this action will take a toll on small businesses. That’s why we’re providing tax relief and exploring loan program options to support this valued community,” Stoney said. “I urge you to keep ordering takeout and delivery and consider buying gift-cards for future use.”
There has been no official ban on these establishments, however Governor Ralph Northam is also recommending people use extreme discretion when out in public.
A statements from the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association was not immediately available.
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