Restaurants continuing to adjust with changing COVID-19 guidelines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Industries across the county have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, including restaurants.

Many dining services in West Virginia have had to adjust procedures, staff, menus, and more to stay afloat. Deno Stanley, the president of the Food Service Division of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association said it’s been a rough five months for West Virginians since the pandemic hit in March.

“The entertainment industry, the restaurant industry, the hospitality industry, we have all suffered greatly to the tune of 60 and 70 percent of a decline in sales,” he said.

Stanley is also the owner of Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille in Charleston. Restaurants in the capital city and across the state were allowed to begin operating with indoor capacity at 50-percent on May 21 after a takeout, delivery only mandate sent out by Gov. Jim Justice at the beginning of the pandemic.

He said even though the summer months are typically the slowest time for his restaurant, adjusting to the changes was not any easier.

“At first we could only have tables of six, then it opened up to no limitations and then we went back to six where we currently are,” Stanley said. “In the very beginning when we were allowed to open up, you couldn’t even serve at the bar.”

Rocco Muriale, the owner of Muriale’s Italian Kitchen in Fairmont, agreed with Stanley in it has been a summer full of challenges but they have survived.

“There have been a lot of adjustments, a lot of new protocols put into place. Also directing most of our energy to the curb service and now with the curb service and inside dining service open, it is working out well,” Muriale said.

“Once we got the protocols down form the local health department, state health department and the national health officials, we put our protocols into place along with a lot of training and transparency among ourselves, staff and our guests.”

Muriale said the restaurant has worked hard to make the customers feel safe with serving curbside and takeout orders, along with outside seating at the restaurant on their deck and picnic tables along the Tygart River.

Stanley said the outdoor dining options given by the City of Charleston, delivery services such as Door Dash, Uber Eats and Grub Hub, and the PPP loans have kept his restaurant alive.

He added the delivery services have nearly doubled from the numbers before the pandemic. He believes it may stay like that for a long time as a result of COVID-19.

“We had been strategizing to move into that direction slowly anyway but we didn’t have to be forced into it. It has changed the restaurant industry and the dining industry, I believe forever,” Stanley said.

Muriale believes the financial effects of the pandemic are far from over.

“All businesses across the country and throughout the world have had a financial hit due to this. I think it will continue even after we come out of this,” he said.

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