FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Restaurant owners in Northern Virginia have been itching to reopen their patios for weeks. Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday said he plans to give them the green light at a news conference Wednesday.
The governor had postponed Phase One of reopening in Northern Virginia to May 29, after local leaders wrote to him saying the region hadn't met the key metrics to reopen.
Even though some NoVa public health officials warned it was still too early, the governor said in a press conference Tuesday that it was his plan to allow the region to proceed with Phase One on Friday.
That news was music to Victoria Trummer's ears, who owns Trummer's Restaurant in Clifton and Trummer's Coffee and Wine Bar in Gainesville.
"We are very excited," she said. "It's been a long time coming, and we've been waiting anxiously for some direction. We feel very sure that it's right now."
She plans to reopen their patio at 50% capacity this Friday, and has been solidifying their safety plan all week. Trummer said they have even brought in more staff to help.
For now, she said dining service will be by reservation only to protect both staff and customers. Reservations will open up Wednesday afternoon online.
As per the governor's order, Trummer said customers will be required to wear a face mask when entering the restaurant -- you have to walk through it to get to the patio.
Other precautions include staff wearing masks when interacting with customers, separate bathrooms for customers and employees, and pre-ordering meals.
Other restaurants, such as Metropolitan Hospitality Group, are taking similar precautions. They own multiple restaurants in the DMV, and Chief Operating Officer, Vincent Spinoso, said they can't wait to reunite some of their team and begin serving customers again.
They will open the patios at their Northern Virginia locations, like CIRCA at Clarendon, Friday to walk-in customers.
Spinoso said it will look a little different. Their staff will wear PPE, they'll have social distancing markers on the ground, and they will set up sanitizing stations for guests. He said they have also decided to print out disposable menus to limit contamination.
Both CIRCA and Trummer's plan to continue their takeout options during the transition.
The governor's order doesn't explicitly say whether or not patrons are required to wear masks while sitting on restaurant patios, but it does say they do not have to wear them while eating and drinking:
All patrons in the Commonwealth aged ten and over shall when entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time inside the settings listed below cover their mouth and nose with a face covering, as described and recommended by the CDC: Food and beverage establishments, including but not limited to, restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers markets, when permitted to reopen for indoor dining.