During his daily briefing, Gov. Bill Lee said the first phase of re-opening will begin with the restaurant industry next week.
The state will begin with allowing restaurants to open their doors for patrons again on Monday, April 27, and retail businesses on Wednesday, April 29, but they must do so at a reduced capacity and follow specific guidelines.
The guidelines are still unclear, but Lee said he planned to give more information during a Friday morning briefing.
José Reyes thought he had to wait until Friday, May 1, which is the day after the governor’s safer-at-home order expires, to have diners inside his new restaurant on Covington’s square.
He opened Jose’s Mexican Street Food just two weeks before the state, county and city all declared a state of emergency from March 22-24. The move closed restaurants, gyms, salons, barber shops and bars to the public, forcing restaurants to utilize takeout, curbside delivery and home delivery instead.
In the early days of the emergency restaurant owners had mixed reports about how business was going. Wells Kitchen’s volume was down 80 percent a month ago, but Court Square Cafe was still seeing “a good number” of takeout orders.
“It’s not normal, but I’m happy,” said Court Square’s owner Becky Spitzer.
In the last month, some restaurants have had to close temporarily. This was the case for Applebee’s, Breakfast Cove and Mid-South BBQ.
Reyes was also worried about how his business would survive the economic effects of not only a global pandemic, but the economic effects of a global pandemic on a restaurant which hadn’t yet been established in the community.
He has now operated his restaurant longer under what is casually being called quarantine – and he’s had to add extra phone lines due to the call volume – than he did before. He is eager to return to normal, though.
“We’re going to go with the flow and adapt to whatever we need to do, we’re going to take precautions, but I want to get to know my customers. They become like family to me.”
He won’t forget the way Jose’s Mexican Street Food opened, though, and the way the people of Tipton County embraced him and other local restaurants during a time that could have ruined them financially.
“We were definitely supported by the community,” he said by phone Friday. “They really reacted by helping local businesses, by coming together as a community, so that we wouldn’t be as affected from how we were doing previously.”
That help allowed him to pay it forward, recently donating 250 meals.
“That was all thanks to the community. If the community wasn’t able to donate with me, I wouldn’t be able to donate to others,” Reyes said. “They kept a lot of us going.”
It’s not yet known when other businesses like gyms, salons and barbershops and churches may re-open to the public, however. Lee said he wants to be methodical and logical with the phased re-opening.
“When the data shows we’re in a place where we can open, we’ll go to phase two.”