Smithfield restaurants, salons begin to reopen

Published 2:35 pm Saturday, May 16, 2020

By Stephen Faleski
Staff Writer

In accordance with Phase 1 of Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Forward Virginia” reopening plan, several Smithfield restaurants, including the Smithfield Gourmet Bakery & Cafe and the Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor, resumed seating patrons outdoors Friday for the first time in nearly two months.

But for Michael Christou and his father, who co-own the Cockeyed Rooster Cafe on Benn’s Grant Boulevard, very little has changed. Their restaurant is located in a shopping center and isn’t set up for outdoor dining – at least not yet.

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The owners have since set up two tents in their parking lot, under which they plan to place six to eight tables.

“We just got our big delivery of masks and gloves … we ordered 1,500,” Christou said.

When Virginia moves into a further stage of reopening and the restaurant is again allowed to seat people indoors, staff plans to hand these out at the door to anyone not already wearing one. The Christous have also made it mandatory for all staff to wear masks, having ordered custom handwoven ones embroidered with the Cockeyed Rooster logo from a business called Reopen 757.

The Hair Stop, a salon on South Church Street, also reopened Friday in accordance with Phase 1, which allows personal grooming establishments to reopen by appointment only. The business is accepting no more than 10 clients at a time, all spaced at least 6 feet apart from each other, and all – stylist and customers alike – are required to wear masks to enter. The business is also requiring all customers to take their temperature and to fill out a questionnaire, stating their name and address, before entering.

The salon is also sanitizing everything in between each and every client. According to The Hair Stop’s Facebook page, it is already booked every day for appointments through Tuesday.

Despite doing only about 12% of the business it used to before the pandemic, the Cockeyed Rooster has managed to survive the past two months, offering takeout and delivery only, without having to lay anybody off. At least, not officially. Christou said when the COVID-19 restrictions began, the restaurant had cut its employees hours and was rotating them, scheduling just two wait staff per shift. But the lack of business and tips wasn’t enough to get by for some.

“We gave them the option of working or taking unemployment,” he said.

About half of the 12 waiters and waitresses he had prior to the pandemic chose to take unemployment.

“We’re calling them in as needed; we’re starting to incorporate all of them again,” he added.