Chatham retailers, restaurants begin to ‘re-open’ as N.C. moves into Phase 2

Posted 5/29/20

By Monday, Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro was back in the swing of things — sort of.

Walk-in business has been light, she said, since the restaurant re-opened to dine-in service, but that was preferable, as they wanted a “transition time.”

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Chatham retailers, restaurants begin to ‘re-open’ as N.C. moves into Phase 2

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PITTSBORO — By Monday, Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro was back in the swing of things — sort of.

“Still quite a bit is take-out,” said Tara Brand, the restaurant’s general manager.

Walk-in business has been light, she said, since the restaurant re-opened to dine-in service, but that was preferable, as they wanted a “transition time.”

Chatham County restaurants and retailers eased back into some of their normal habits this week as North Carolina moved into Phase 2 of “re-opening” after months of closings due to executive orders from Gov. Roy Cooper. The governor enacted Phase 2 on Friday evening, calling the new restrictions a “Safer at Home” order.

“North Carolina is using the data to guide our decisions about when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, and overall our key indicators remain stable,” Cooper said. “Safer At Home Phase 2 is another careful step forward, and we have to continue taking this virus seriously to prevent a dangerous spike in infections.”

In a press release from the Chatham County government on Friday, Public Health Director Layton Long said it was important that residents realize that the county was not completely free of COVID-19 yet.

“Although the move to Phase 2 may lead some to believe the risk of COVID-19 infection is behind us, we are not out of the woods yet,” Long said. “The state is taking a cautious approach with good reason, and we continue to encourage our community to stay home as much as possible, maintain a safe distance from others, and wear a face covering if you are in public and around others. We know that a spike in cases remains likely if these measures are not taken seriously.”

There was a small spike a day after the order went into effect and Phase 2 began. North Carolina saw its largest single-day increase in reported positive tests to date — with 1,107 lab-confirmed cases announced — on Saturday. While the dates those tests were conducted were not revealed, more than 36,000 had been reported in the three days prior.

The executive order enacting Phase 2 warned that some of the loosening of restrictions could be retracted if a spike does occur. North Carolina has seen more than 600 new cases each reported in nine of the 11 days from May 15-25.

“Since the issuance of executive orders to slow the spread of COVID-19, North Carolina has ‘flattened the curve’ and prevented a surge or spike in cases across the state, and North Carolina has also increased its capacity for testing, tracing and the availability of personal protective equipment,” the order stated. “Despite the overall stability in key metrics, North Carolina’s daily case counts of COVID-19 continue to increase slightly in the context of increased testing, demonstrating the state must remain vigilant in its work to slow the spread of the virus.”

Perhaps reflecting the mixed results and arguably conservative “re-opening” plan, Chatham County businesses were mixed in their response to the lifting of some restrictions.

Pittsboro’s Davenport’s Cafe Diem coffee shop said on Instagram that it would remain pick-up and takeout only until June 1 and would “reopen seating at a later date when we have determined it is safe for our staff and our patrons.” Siler City’s Bestfood Cafeteria and Hayley Bales Steakhouse will continue take-out only, its Facebook page stated, “to maintain safety for not only our customers but our employees as well,” but looked forward “to a time that we can serve our loyal customers in a dine-in environment once again.”

Other stores and restaurants began in-facility service immediately or soon afterward. The Modern Life Deli & Drinks restaurant in Pittsboro re-opened dine-in service at 5 p.m. on Friday, the facility’s Facebook page stated. Nericcio’s Family Restaurant in Siler City also opened immediately, while Virlie’s Grill in Pittsboro re-opened dine-in service on Tuesday. Pittsboro Toys resumed in-store shopping on Saturday.

The Chatham County Economic Development Corporation — in partnership with several organizations including the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, Chatham County government and Pittsboro-Siler City Convention & Visitors Bureau — released a “Reopening Your Business” guide, a 54-page document outlining suggestions and instructions for local businesses of all kinds to resume activities under executive order. The guide, which can be found at reopeninghelp.com, included advice like “limit cash handling” and “avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment when possible.”

The document also included instructions for specific businesses like pharmacies, real estate agencies and child care facilities.

“It is important to comfort crying, sad and/or anxious infants and toddlers, and the children often need to be held,” the document stated, referring to child care facilities. “When washing, feeding or holding very young children, child care providers can protect themselves to the extent possible by wearing an oversized button-down, long sleeved shirt and by wearing long hair up off the collar in a ponytail or other updo.”

In the county government press release, Pittsboro Mayor Jim Nass encouarged residents to be cautious as they ventured back out — or at least, started eating out and spending more time out-and-about than they have in the last couple of months.

“We realize residents are eager to get out and about after abiding by the stay-at-home order for several weeks,” Nass said. “While our local businesses utilize this important operational guide and begin reopening, we advise residents to also keep safety top of mind in reducing the spread of the virus and follow the important guidance of our health director.”

Photographer Kim Hawks contributed to the reporting of this article.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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