‘We have been ready to embrace normal’: Crowds return to restaurants as state fully reopens

‘We have been ready to embrace normal’: Crowds return to restaurants as state fully reopens

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Restaurants and breweries are gearing up for what they hope will be a busy holiday weekend now that pandemic protocols have finally been lifted.

Governor Ralph Northam said starting Friday, all restrictions on capacity and social distancing are officially lifted, but he is still encouraging anyone who is not fully vaccinated to still wear masks.

For businesses like Legend Brewing Company, the milestone means it can double its operation for the first time in over a year.

“It means that I’ve got twice as many tables inside, twice as many barstools,” said operation manager, Dave Gott. “I think it’s as much of a psychological benefit as it is a financial benefit to be perfectly honest.”

Gott says Legend was relying on outdoor seating to stay afloat during the worst of the pandemic, but Gott says the real game-changer now will be the business he’s bringing inside.

“Our total capacity was 200 people, during the epidemic, socially distanced, taking every other table out, we were down to 100,” Gott said. “Really, it’s the inside aspect of the whole thing that these changes for us, and with the weather coming in this weekend that changes everything.”

But for some businesses, that change won’t come as fast. Restaurants like Perly’s will be keeping their doors closed this holiday weekend. Its owners told customers over social media that it won’t have enough staff to operate.

“It’s very difficult to get people to come in and work right now,” Gott said.

The lingering fear of the pandemic is also keeping from going out into mostly maskless crowds.

“I keep my mask with me. I’m ready to put it on if I have to,” said a customer.

“I think there are a lot of people still hesitant to go out being in big crowds,” said Gott.

Businesses still have the option to enforce their own rules when it comes to mask-wearing, social distancing, and capacity restrictions, but Gott says he and many others are hoping for large crowds this weekend and believes the state is ready to handle them safely.

“We have been ready to embrace normal. I hope the rest of the state is, I hope the city is,” Gott said.

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