Limited-service restaurants and bars preparing to welcome back customers

Limited-service restaurants and bars preparing to welcome back customers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - At Alchemy in Midtown Memphis, owner Nick Scott is thrilled to welcome customers back for the first time in months.

“We’re going to need a little bit of time to build up some inventory,” he said, “and build up some prep. It’s like opening a new restaurant, which is tough. We hope to do a soft opening this weekend.”

The Shelby County Health Department on Tuesday, Sept. 22, gave Alchemy and other limited-service restaurants and bars the green light to reopen, with COVID-19 safety guidelines in place:

  • No sitting or standing at the bar
  • Alcohol must be served with food
  • Customers must be seated at tables
  • Dining is limited to two hours
  • Closing time is 10 p.m.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter, director of SCHD, says she’s comfortable reopening bars because the health department hired more than 200 new employees allowing much better contact tracing now.

“We are at a place,” she said, “that when we receive a report of a new case, we are able to contact or reach out to contact that case in 24 hours, which is actually the national standard.”

Shelby County is also offering grants up to $10,000 for limited-service restaurant owners like Scott who haven’t had any income since the health department shut them down in early July.

“I would say over the past however many months,” Scott said, “this has been the most trying times that anyone in this business has had probably since Prohibition. It’s very expensive to run a restaurant, so anything that helps, especially now, yeah, we’re definitely interested in that.”

Scott was among the business owners who sued the health department after they were forced to close. But that’s now in the past and all eyes are on the future and getting back to work.

“You know, a lot of us have endured,” he told WMC Action News 5, “and a lot of us are tough and we’re ready for the challenge. I think we’re going to overcome.”

Health Directive #12 that allows limited-service restaurants to reopen takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 23.

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