VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The open social space at The Shack on 8th is mostly filled.
On Friday, guests showed up to the Oceanfront outdoor bar, which is known for crushes, lawn games and an energetic nighttime social scene, and found the lawn covered in tables and chairs.
Owner Mike Standing says he added 30 to 40 tables to make the most of rules that went into effect on May 15, when Virginia entered Phase 1 of reopening its economy.
"The support from the locals has kept us going. It's kept us motivated to be innovative and do new things," Standing said.
Prior to the start of Phase 1, restaurants could only offer takeout and delivery in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Now, outdoor seating is allowed at 50 percent capacity or less. Tables must also be spread out to keep in-line with social distancing guidelines.
"I feel like a teacher with a ruler, but we have to do that because we don't want to fail the system," said Standing. "We don't want to fail the governor's orders and we want to get into Phase 2. It's very important for us to get into Phase 2."
Because of the social distancing rules, Standing thinks he'll reach a little more than 20 percent outdoor capacity at The Shack and his other two Atlantic Avenue restaurants: Waterman's and Chix on the Beach.
But it's still an improvement over not having dine-in at all, he says.
Waterman's reached capacity within an hour of opening its expanded outdoor seating on Friday.
Shannon Kelly, who lives in Virginia Beach, was the first to snag a table with friends and family at The Shack after seeing the setup the day prior.
(We saw) lots of people working out here getting it ready for today so we were like we’re going there tomorrow. Boom," she said.
Now the attention turns to hiring more staff, a problem many restaurants who turned to layoffs to make ends meet are facing.
Standing tells News 3 he opened The Shack Grocery Market, which allowed him to keep a lot of his employees working; a move that's paying off now.
"We didn't really let go as many people as (others in) the industry so we wanted to keep the wheels moving," he said. "We have a lot of employees and a lot of them were really anxious to come back to work. They're tired of being cooped up in the house and they're ready to go. Of course we don't have as many as we like but it'll come with time."
And for those who don't want to take a risk during a pandemic, all three of Standing's restaurants are still open for takeout.
The Shack on 8th
712 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Grocery Market opens at 9 a.m., Restaurant open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Bar open until 2 a.m.
Waterman's Surfside Grille
415 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Chix on the Beach
701 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.