COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Mother’s Day and University of South Carolina graduation weekend are traditionally some of the busiest days on the calendar for Columbia restaurants.
However, Saluda’s owner Steve Cook said he isn’t focused on profit, he’s focused on getting back to normal.
“To me, it’s more about starting the engine on my little piece of the economy and getting people engaged in commerce,” he said.
On Monday, that engine will kick it up a notch as Cook and other restaurant owners across the state prepare to reopen their dining rooms if they feel comfortable to do so.
Last week, Governor Henry McMaster announced his guidelines for restaurants to reopen after closing because of COVID-19. The guidelines include having the restaurant at 50 percent capacity, spacing tables at least six feet apart, and sanitizing tables and chairs between each guest.
Cook said the recent move from only doing takeout to allowing outdoor dining has been a good transition for his team. He said they are learning more about how to be more conscious of social distancing each day.
For example, Cook said he never thought to add to training not to touch customer’s phones to take a picture for them, but they are learning as new situations arise.
And he isn’t concerned the guidelines will turn customers off from going to restaurants.
“Throughout this week we’ve learned there has been a huge demand for restaurants,” Cook said. “Not everyone is ready to get out but folks who are are increasing by the day.”
Despite not seeing huge crowds for Mother’s Day and graduations, Cook says it’s good to see people leaving their homes to celebrate big events again.
“I’m seeing people come together. Friends go to dinner with each other who they haven’t seen for a while…a child and their parents come in to celebrate graduation. Certainly, it’s not as large as a celebration as they would otherwise have…birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations are continuing to happen,” he said
But for some owners of close-contact businesses like nail salons, barbershops, and gyms are ready to open up too and are frustrated by having to wait.
Lauren Truslow owns boutique fitness studio Barre3 and the adjoining business Nail Barre. Both of her businesses remain closed at this time. She said it’s hard to not know when she can bring her team and customers back, and she’s working as hard as ever to keep her business afloat.
“It’s really defeating and heartbreaking to turn into those press conferences and get nothing,” Truslow said. “I’m a planner. As a business owner, you have to have a plan.”
On Friday, McMaster mentioned he may have an announcement to make on close-contact businesses as soon as Monday but didn’t say when they’d be allowed to open and under what guidelines.
Truslow said she keeps hearing rumors, but nothing is consistent. Therefore, she is making sure she is ready to open and keep her clients safe the second she’s allowed.
“We have all these procedures and policies in place, and we are ready to roll. But still, we have zero dollars coming in and that’s hard, “she said.