Monday, June 08, 2020

    For several years, Betty and Billy MacDonald were regulars at Dayton Tavern.

    Oftentimes, the mother-and-son duo from the Belmont community would head to Dayton at least two or three times a week for a steak and baked potato.

    But their tradition came to a screeching halt about three months ago as Gov. Ralph Northam implemented a stay-at-home order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. The order prohibited dine-in service at restaurants.


    On Friday, as part of Phase 2 of Virginia’s reopening plan, dining rooms were allowed to reopen.

    The MacDonalds made sure they had a dinner reservation.

    “This is our favorite restaurant,” said Betty MacDonald, 77. “We couldn’t wait to get back in.”

    Although restaurants have been able to operate outdoor dining at 50% percent capacity under Phase 1, Dayton Tavern owner Diane Roll said she’s happy to see the state move toward opening restaurants completely.

    Under Phase 2, restaurants are able to open dining rooms at 50% capacity. For Roll, that’s about 20 customers at a time.

    Roll said she was eager to greet the MacDonalds and the rest of her regulars as they arrived Friday and Saturday.

    “I’m incredibly excited,” she said, adding that she’s an extrovert. “It’s been difficult not being able to interact with people. I’m so excited to see my friends.”

    While business has been slower during the last three months — down about 25% in the restaurant and 95% in the catering business — she said she’s been able to survive by improvising. Her moves, she said, kept everyone at the restaurant employed.

    In addition to takeout service, Roll started selling prepared meals, called Your Meal. She said that has evolved into a business of its own. She said she plans on opening a “grab and go” business in Bridgewater.

    Patti Landes, owner of The Cracked Pillar in Bridgewater, said that nice weather during Phase 1 has helped the restaurant significantly since it features a large, fully covered outdoor dining area.

    But, she said, being outside isn’t for everyone, especially as the warmer weather approaches.

    “We’re very excited to have people inside,” she said. “I do know some people like getting into the air conditioning when it gets hot and humid.”

    She said the downstairs of the restaurant can hold about 50 people under the plan and upstairs can seat about 25.

    Jamie DePoy, 25, and his mother, Sheila Miller, 59, both of Bridgewater, grabbed some burgers Friday night to celebrate the reopening of dining rooms.

    DePoy said he was eager to get back out to restaurants. He said he’s hoping that everyone follows the rules.

    “It’s nice as long as it doesn’t get too crowded,” he said.

    Miller said she’s been cooped up at home for too long.

    “It’s nice just to be able to be out,” she said.

    Valerie Rodgers, 41, of Verona, grabbed food at the Cracked Pillar with her friends, Melissa Wampler, 42, of Harrisonburg, and Denise Reese, 42, of Timberville.

    She said it was nice to be able to spend time with friends in public.

    “It’s amazing to be back to normal … not stuck at home,” she said.

    Under Phase 2, Virginians have more opportunities to get out of the house.

    Brick-and-mortar retail shops can operate at 50% capacity and gyms can open at 30% capacity as long as they follow strict cleaning and social distancing policies.

    Valley Fitness Harrisonburg and Harrisonburg 24/7 Family Fitness opened on Friday. Planet Fitness in Harrisonburg plans to reopen on Tuesday, and the RMH Wellness Center is gearing up for a June 17 open.

    In Phase 2, movie theaters and other entertainment venues remain closed.

    Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6267 or Follow Pete on Twitter @pdelea_DNR

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