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Virginia restaurants open for outdoor dining, local businesses adapt to new guidelines

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Posted at 3:14 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 17:16:39-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.— Friday marks the first day of Phase One guidelines in the Commonwealth.

Restaurants that have been limited to serving curbside can now begin seating customers outside for the first time since March.

Many restaurants are now faced with tackling the challenges of staying safe and staying open.

Citrus on W. Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach is open for outdoor seating, and they have plenty of it. With room to accommodate 76 guests, they’ve expanded their outdoor area to include more tables that will be able to accommodate the customers that are looking forward to enjoying their food outdoors.

When Michelle Poje realized she could eat out, the first thing she did was tell her friends to meet her at Citrus for breakfast on Friday.

“I feel safe I know definitely— hopefully most restaurants are going to be sanitizing, so I’m going to trust them,” says Poje.

Under Phase One guidelines, restaurants can now offer outdoor dining at 50% occupancy.

Manager Shanon Connelly describes it as “one step closer to normal.”

The experience may look and feel like what customers are used to, but things are different.

“All of our tables are six feet apart,” explained Connelly. “We’re not allowing anybody into the building; if they do have to use the restroom, it’s just one at a time.”

Citrus servers wear face coverings and gloves while attending to customers, and instead of everyone pitching in to help diners, one server works with one table at a time to limit contact.

“It’s nice to be able to have that connection with our guests again and serve them, you know, that one-on-one dining experience that we’ve all been missing.”

The breakfast and lunch favorites are the same, but the menus have changed.

Related: City planning partial closure of Downtown Hampton streets to make space for outdoor dining

Citrus is now using single-serve paper menus that are thrown away after each use.

“We are definitely trying to look out for our staff and our patrons,” says Connelly.

You won’t find any condiments on the table, either. Everything is portioned out for individual use.

Once the dining is done, the table and chairs are wiped down before the next guest is seated.

Customers says they’re happy with the changes, and management says they’re confident they are maintaining a safe space.

“With what we’ve been keeping up with and the social distancing and all that good stuff, I’m not concerned at all,” says Connelly.

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