Restaurants, salons begin to reopen

Published 1:14 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2020

By Stephen Faleski

Staff Writer


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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, Chris, who co-own the Cockeyed Rooster Cafe on Benn’s Grant Boulevard, very little had changed. Their restaurant is located in a shopping center and wasn’t set up for outdoor dining — at least not yet.

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.

Costa Del Sol, a Mexican restaurant in Windsor, has also set up a makeshift outdoor dining area, despite also being located in a shopping center. There were few takers, though, on Monday, owing to the rain.

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 six 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, as of Friday it was 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. Christou said when the COVID-19 restrictions began, the restaurant cut its employees’ hours and was rotating them, scheduling just two wait staff per shift. But the lack of hours 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.

Smithfield Station, a restaurant, hotel and marina located on the Pagan River in downtown Smithfield, is also in the process of bringing back its furloughed staff. Randy Pack, who co-owns the establishment with his brother, Brian, said the Station had to lay off about 95% of its employees when the statewide COVID-19 restrictions began. That figure includes restaurant and hotel workers.

While the hotel part of the Station had never officially closed, “nobody was traveling,” Pack said.

The restaurant resumed outdoor seating on Friday, albeit at 50% capacity, with tables spaced out on the Station’s boardwalk under tents and fans. Servers, almost all of whom have returned to work, are now required to wear masks and to wash their hands at least every 20 minutes, Pack said. He’s also hired someone to help sanitize the restaurant each shift. The restaurant is still offering curbside takeout service, too.

“We’re happy to reopen in any capacity,” Pack said. “We’re looking forward to Phase 2 when we’re able to have people inside again.”