After almost two months of offering only carry out and delivery, Waynesboro restaurants have begun to slowly reopen dine-in seating this week.
However, it’s not business as usual and probably won’t be for a while. Under Phase One of Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to reopen the state which began May 15, restaurants can open, but they’re limited to outdoor seating at 50% capacity.
From March 18 until last Friday, The Fishin’ Pig served carry out, curbside and through its food truck. But that changed May 15 when the restaurant opened outdoor patio seating with social distancing.
Heritage on Main Street in downtown Waynesboro has also opened its outside dining as an option for customers. However, the restaurant has a new menu, said co-owner Kris Krupa, and is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Fishin’ Pig encourages customers to wear face masks when not at their table, and to remain seated at their table unless visiting the restroom. No more than six individuals are permitted at each table, and one individual in each restroom at a time.
Customers have a two-hour limit per table so other customers can be accommodated, and the restaurant’s bar remains closed to customers. Employees of The Fishin’ Pig will get customer drinks from the bar.
The restaurant offers 90 percent of its regular menu from 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 4 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and noon to midnight on Saturdays. Live music is available on Friday and Saturday nights.
When Northam prohibited dine-in customers in March, both Heritage and The Fishin’ Pig had to make changes.
“We closed two days [in March] in order to change our restaurant from a dine-in restaurant to a carry out restaurant,” said The Fishin’ Pig co-owner Perry Fridley.
The restrictions have been rough on business owners, said Greg Hitchin, Waynesboro’s director of economic development and tourism.
“Certainly, we recognize that all businesses are struggling,” Hitchin said.
Krupa said Heritage survived with “a lot of local support from community leaders,” such as Blue Ridge Beverage, Hosrath Realty and Atlantic First Bank. Local organizations have ordered thousands of dollars in gift cards to give to their employees and to help support Heritage.
“We just weathered it the best we could,” Krupa said. “My heart is just forever grateful for the amount of kindness.”
When the pandemic is over, Krupa said he would like to give back to the community by hosting a dinner or other event.
“The main message I would want to get across to everybody is just to thank them for the support and all the kindness,” Krupa said.
At The Fishin’ Pig, Fridley said the restaurant’s food truck allowed The Fishin’ Pig to “reach out to the community and say: ‘Hey, we’re still open.’”
“Our business is half what it’s been, but the community has just been wonderful,” Fridley said.
The easiest solution to the restrictions would have been to shut down, Fridley said, but with 54 employees counting on the restaurant to stay open, it wasn’t an option.
“So, we just dug in and said: ‘Hey, we’re going to hold on as long as we can,” said Fridley, who also owns the Days Inn and Best Western in Waynesboro.
Fridley said the community’s response in the last two months tells him The Fishin’ Pig will be able to fully reopen when the pandemic is over.
“At the end of the day, [closing] was never an option,” Fridley said.
Hitchin said the city is working with partners in the community to provide resources for local businesses as they reopen in the coming months after the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Waynesboro residents, the city is keeping its website up to date with resources that can provide financial and other assistance to businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“We’re just there to support,” Hitchin said. “We certainly know what will come out of this is the renaissance of Waynesboro.”
Hitchin said in the months ahead, the city sees “an even stronger city and region.”
He said the city encourages businesses to pay attention to the governor’s guidelines.
“As long as we follow those procedures — and take things slow, we’ll only have to do this once and come back stronger,” Hitchin said of the city’s recovery from the pandemic.