CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The loosening of COVID-19 restrictions by Gov. Jim Justice in terms of raising the capacity allowed inside a restaurant is welcoming news for numerous restaurant owners around the state.
On Friday, Justice announced restaurants and bars were now allowed to operate at 75% capacity for indoor dining. It’s a change from a 50% cap that was put into place early on in the pandemic on May 21.
Deno Stanley, the owner of Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille in Charleston, told MetroNews he was thrilled with the news.
“It’s huge for us. It means we can employ more staff and safely seat more people. We will still follow all the guidelines and keep masked up,” Stanley said.
“I think it’s huge for our city, our state and all our counties.”
Stanley said his staff had to be cut by 25% during the pandemic and the menus were limited. He said Adelphia can now look to expand menus and said the same would probably be seen at restaurants across the state.
According to him, 75% capacity at Adelphia means around 90 people inside the Capitol Street location. He expects revenue to be close to normal rates in years past with the expansion to 75% capacity based on the number of takeout orders that Adelphia has seen during the pandemic.
Takeout orders at his restaurant have increased by 30% from pre-pandemic numbers. He said takeout has been so strong, that a few days during 50% capacity, revenue would seem to be at a pre-pandemic level.
Overall, Stanley said revenue is down between 32-38% from 2019 and 2020 totals.
He added that a key for restaurants around the state to continue to survive the pandemic will be for outdoor dining to be permanently allowed once winter ends. In May, the City of Charleston temporarily allowed outdoor seating for restaurants.
Richie Heath, West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association (WVHTA) Executive Director told MetroNews that streamlining and reducing regulations such as food and alcohol laws that have been put into place during the pandemic and making them permanent is a legislative priority this session.
This includes takeout alcohol and extended outdoor dining.
Heath said he is pleased with the progress in the early weeks of the session with those rules. He said he was more pleased with Justice’s announcement on Friday and has heard from many restaurant owners who feel the same way.
“This will be particularly helpful as we get through the winter months and head into spring. Hopefully, then we will have outdoor dining resurgence again and really help folks get fully back up on their feet,” Heath said.
Included in the order by Justice is bars may only increase capacity to the extent that they have seating for every patron — no standing room only.
Between March and May of last year, restaurants were only allowed takeout and delivery orders in West Virginia. Stanley, who is also the Food Service Division President of the WVHTA, said he is thankful that his restaurant has made it this far, almost a year since the pandemic hit.
He knows others were not so fortunate as the economics of running a restaurant with the type of previous restrictions in place could not work.
“In our state, some of them didn’t make it. It’s a terrible thing, it’s horrible to watch other restaurants and other small businesses just fail through this,” Stanley said.