WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Saturday was the first full day of the stay at home order being lifted for Northern Virginia, the District and parts of Maryland. Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties plan to open June 1.
In Old Town Alexandria a portion of King Street was closed so restaurants could provide outdoor seating for their guests.
“The people that are here are people who want to be here,” Niamh O’Donovan of Daniel O’Connell’s Irish Restaurant said. “Anyone who doesn't feel uncomfortable with everything going on with COVID-19, and with the reopening phases that are happening, they obviously have the choice to stay at home and that's a good thing.”
O’Donovan said they opened sit down seating O'Connell's for the first time Friday night. She said all of the customers in the Old Town restaurant area were acting responsibly.
“Last night there was definitely a great vibe, very positive, it was very controlled, there certainly didn't seem to be any level of panic, all the guests and restaurants alike were very responsible,” O’Donovan said.
In Northern Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced face masks would be mandatory while people are at restaurants, except while eating.
Although patios are back open for restaurants, not all establishments have a patio space, street space, or sidewalk space, to reopen for sit down dining.
And for some businesses that do have outdoor space, not all of them are ready to fully reopen.
Rose Previte, the owner of Compass Rose in Northwest, said she applauds the restaurants that could pull staff together and train them so quick to follow new hygienic and safety standards, but for the time being she said they are going to focus their efforts on carry out.
Previte said she also had staff members that were not comfortable with reopening for sit down dining yet.
For some restaurants, there are no options to have outdoor patio seating, and have to stick with carry out for phase one.
“While we're happy for our neighbors that they have outdoor dining, it certainly is a bit of a drag for us,” Altra Strado and Tico Chef and Owner Michael Schlow said. “We're not envious or anything like that, we're happy for them, but it sure would be great if we could all do this. I think that I speak for every business that doesn't have outdoor seating, it's a detriment. It makes it that much more difficult to drive revenue as penned up you know demand really people want to be outside.”
Schlow understands how it feels to have a restaurant with patio seating both open and closed. Alta Strada is open for patio seating, but his 14th Street taco shop Tico does not have sidewalk space to convert to outdoor dining.
He said Alta Strada had a successful first night back after quickly organizing and getting everything together.
“We’ve been preparing in theory for a long time, but we only had about 48 hours before we got the notice that we would indeed be able to open up, so it's a little bit of a scramble, but we were prepared,” Schlow said. “Until you got the real regulations and the real requirements it was impossible to fully prepare.”
Schlow said despite having the Alta Strada patio open, 80 to 90 percent of the Friday night sales were delivery or takeout. He said only six tables were used last night as outdoor dining so the staff could ease back into it.
“People were really excited to be out,” Schlow said. “We had the tables you know distanced and far apart from each other, but there was a great feeling when you went up to the table. We were just happy to be outside and feel safe I think being able to eat outside.”