COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters Thursday he plans to lift some restrictions on restaurants “soon.”
His comments came after his meeting with the state’s military leaders in Columbia.
Restaurants and bars have been open in South Carolina since May 11. However, they’ve been limited to 50% capacity since then to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The governor wants to lift that restriction, allowing restaurants to operate at 100% capacity, while keeping the mask mandate in place, he said Thursday.
“If you look out the window at any street in South Carolina, things are going back to normal in the streets,” said Steven Cook, who owns Saluda’s. “We need to find a way to stay safe and still be able to run our businesses and get as close to back normal as we can, and hopefully these are steps in the right direction.”
For many restaurant owners in the Midlands, this is good news for their businesses because COVID-19 has hit the industry hard.
“Just between the 2 restaurants that I’ve got, we’re looking at $2 million to $2.5 million in lost revenue, lost taxes, lost wages,” said Kristian Niemi, who owns Bourbon on Main Street in Columbia.
Masks are required for employees and customers at restaurants and bars. Diners may remove their masks for eating and drinking once seated.
“We’d encourage everyone to stay outside as much as they can,” McMaster added.
Right now, restaurants must keep tables at least six feet apart, limit tables to eight guests, and not permit anyone to stand or congregate in a bar area.
Alcohol sales must also end at 11 p.m.
These guidelines became mandatory in late July when the governor was looking to fight a spike in COVID-19 cases.