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Wilson businesses readying to reopen: Cooper's ‘Phase 2’ order takes effect Friday

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Business was booming before Pup’s Steakhouse had to discontinue dine-in service on St. Patrick’s Day, and after two months of takeout-only business, staff is working hard to get the Brentwood eatery ready to reopen today.

“The overwhelming support from the community during this time has meant so much to us, and we’re very excited to welcome our patrons back to dine inside or on the Golden Leaf Patio,” said Taran Dunn. “The safety and health of our patrons is as important to us as that of our own family, so we are taking extra precautions to serve everyone.”

Gov. Roy Cooper announced a variety of requirements for restaurants to resume dine-in service, including operating at 50% capacity and ensuring tables are at least 6 feet apart.

“I actually was expecting a little lower occupancy, so I think 50% is pretty good,” said Dunn, noting that means 53 patrons on the patio and 61 customers dining inside. “We’re actually in a different situation than a lot of the restaurants in Wilson in that our layout already was so spread out.”

Pup’s owners also have opted to take extra precautions such as having a staffer dedicated to disinfecting and sanitizing tables and chairs between customers as well as other high-traffic areas. With no reservations accepted and rather than waiting inside for a table, customers will wait in their cars and receive a call or text message when their table is ready.

The private dining room is being converted into a space to serve customers at high risk of complications with COVID-19. The restaurant also will have disposable silverware, cups, menus and more for those who request it. The front-door entrance will be limited to customers who wish to eat inside, while the back door will only be for patio customers.

While Dunn said Pup’s will reopen at 5 p.m. Friday as allowed by the state, Carolina Cheese Co. owner Richard Millinder said he expects to continue with takeout for another week. He said the reduced occupancy and social distancing requirements translate to six tables inside plus more outside.

“I think the state guidelines are good, but I really feel like it should be more up to the consumer to decide what businesses they want to go to,” Millinder said. Originally Phase 2 was supposed to include bars and nightclubs as well as gyms, but Cooper said those establishments must stay closed until at least June 26. “I generally feel it is not the government’s responsibility to tell businesses and people what they can and can’t do. I think it is overstepping, and while I understand the reasoning behind it, I don’t think ignoring the Constitution is the way to go about it.”

The state released requirements and recommendations targeted at each of the various industries included in the Phase 2 reopening. Reduced capacity, employee screenings and frequent cleaning are required across the board, but employee masks are optional in restaurants while they are required in salons and tattoo shops.

With regard to restaurants with buffets, the guidelines were recommendations ranging from having a staffer plate food for customers, have an attendant monitor social distancing and to remove potentially contaminated food, and sanitize serving utensils every 30 minutes.

“I think all of these businesses will be more successful if they show to the public that they are being safe,” Cooper said on Wednesday, adding the hope is that businesses will implement the recommendations as well as the requirements. “ I think that would be good business for them to take these safety precautions.”

Dunn said she’s requiring all employees to wear masks and inviting customers to make a personal decision about wearing masks.

Deep Roots Salon owner Atlanta Wills said she’s decided to make masks mandatory for staff and customers with a “no mask, no service” sign on the door leading up to the Brentwood salon reopening at 8 a.m. Saturday.

“I think the guidelines from the state are great because they are very doable, but not over the top where people won’t stay in compliance,” Wills said. “We’ve moved all our booths 6 feet apart, and we’re requiring everyone to wear masks to protect ourselves and our customers.”

Response from customers has been overwhelming, with many of the stylists booked solid for the next few months. Like many businesses, Deep Roots Salon took to social media to advertise the precautions planned once its doors reopen. With many business owners deciding to change hours or implement new guidelines, customers are encouraged to check social media or call a shop before heading out.

There have been a variety of efforts geared toward businesses in a post-lockdown economy. Server has created virtual courses for restaurants while the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services launched online training and guidance for businesses and customers alike. Wilson Fire/Rescue Services recently debuted plans to conduct voluntary free fire safety checks for businesses that have been closed.

“Our primary goal is to address any questions or issues before the business reopens,” said Deputy Chief Michael Sumner. “We also have developed a self-inspection checklist where business owners can perform an assessment of their business before receiving an official fire inspection.”

Visit telecommuting/ya3e5dd6 for a list of frequently asked questions with clarifications on Phase 2.

“The state of North Carolina is guided by data and facts in making decisions regarding COVID-19. Enough of the key indicators are leveling or moving the right direction to make this transition to Safer At Home Phase 2,” according to a state release. “... If key indicators move in the wrong direction, restrictions may be put back into place.”