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Local restaurant in-house dining off to slow start
Debra Purcell, far right, Joy Ethridge, center, and Carol Simons share a laugh while dining outside at Chicken Salad Chick as Georgia allows restaurants to re-open their dining rooms on Monday, April 27. The restaurant has not yet officially opened its dining room, but some take-out customers found their way to the tables outside.The three best friends got together in-person for the first time in over a month after sheltering in place. They said they know each other well-enough to skip some of the recommended safeguards with each other, but they insist they wear their masks and observe social distancing when out in public.

Business was reportedly slow at a number of Statesboro restaurants Monday despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s declaration that they may reopen dining areas after weeks of closure. During the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide shutdown, restaurants were limited to takeout and delivery only.

Bu Monday when the ban on in-house dining was lifted, local eateries took tentative steps.

Some opened with limited hours, but others reported hesitancy to allow in-house dining yet. Calls to a number of local restaurants Monday went unanswered.

Longhorn’s voicemail message informs callers the Northside Drive East steakhouse dining room is open for business. However, managing partner Christina Rentz spoke to the Statesboro Herald and said that while they were indeed open, she could not discuss details.

Andrew Jordan, manager at Olive Garden, located on Henry Boulevard, said business was sluggish compared to the past, but they were serving customers inside.

“We are observing social distancing, all wearing masks” and following all corporate-ordered mandates, including limited seating and thorough cleaning, he said.

Ruby Tuesday manager Justin Raymond said the popular salad bar is not available yet, but the Northside Drive East restaurant opened its dining room Monday to a slow start. Socially distanced seating — every other booth — and all employees wearing masks and gloves are the new rules, but he hopes diners soon return to the overall restaurant experience.

Calls Monday to Ocean Galley on Northside Drive East, El Sombrero on Fair Road and Beaver House on South Main Street were unanswered.

While the AMC Classic Statesboro 12 movie theater on Brannen Street behind the Statesboro Mall was also eligible to reopen Monday after Kemp lifted restrictions, its website indicated it was still temporarily closed.

Some establishments are yet undecided. Stephanie Lowery at Fordham’s Farmhouse on Northside Drive East said the restaurant is not yet opening its dining area, and Gnat’s Landing’s manager Kaleo Lyles said the same of the South Main Street restaurant. Both businesses are gauging public reaction to the reopening.

Waffle House on South Main Street closes at 3 p.m. daily but allows diners to come in and eat from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. as long as they observe social distancing. Workers wear gloves and masks, too, said employee Tchake Grant.

Hugo Garcia, employee at El Rinconcito in College Plaza, said they are also “waiting a few weeks” before reopening to in-house dining.

Orchid Asian Cuisine owner Lan Doan said her restaurant on Fair Road would open its dining room on Thursday. She said the restaurant is reducing the number of tables and will take additional sanitizing steps. All the restaurant spokespersons said takeout and curbside pickup will continue.


Precautions still mandated

Although Kemp’s controversial quick-start jump back into business allows a lot more freedom than before, business owners and individuals are still encouraged to continue social distancing and sheltering at home, if possible, and to keep using gloves, masks and sanitizer. Bulloch County Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn shared “good news,” reporting that as of noon Monday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Bulloch County had remained unchanged since Friday, holding steady at 34 positive cases and two deaths.

Personal protective equipment supplies are replenished and being distributed. As of Monday afternoon, Bulloch County EMS had transported 17 probable and five confirmed patients so far. East Georgia Regional Medical Center, which has at one time housed as many as nine COVID-19 patients at once, only had one COVID patient at the hospital Monday, he said.

Statewide, numbers rose. By Monday evening, there were 24,225 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia, with 4,744 hospitalizations and 994 deaths, Wynn said.

Aside from allowing some businesses to reopen, “the governor’s order remains in place and social distancing is mandatory,” he said. “By doing this, the numbers will improve, but we do not need to let our guard down. Always continue to follow CDC guidelines on hygiene and socially distancing.

“‘Hot spots’ like the Albany area will remain the state’s most serious infection zone. We do not want that here.”


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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