Local restaurants plan for reboot of economy

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Many area restaurants are wondering how they will fit in to Tennessee’s gradual reopening of the economy.

Some of them, like Sahib in Johnson City, said they are going to continue curb-side services for the next few weeks, then gradually reopen parts of their restaurant based on their interest and number of COVID-19 cases.

“Just keep doing the drive thru until May 10th or 7th and watch what kind of response we have,” said Sahib owner Vivek Vatrana.

Vatrana said should the number of COVID cases remain low, he will eventually open up the dining area for 10 to 12 people. He will also stay away from the buffet initially.

“We’ll start with a lunch menu and then slowly go from there,” he said.

Rafael Zabala, who owns both Southern Craft BBQ and Label, said he will gradually open up the inside dining area of his restaurants.

“Assuming that a percentage of the restaurant is going to be open, 25 to 50 percent,” said Zabla, “and then slowly gradually increase up to 100 percent capacity.”

Zabala said curb-side takeout will be a large part of business for the next few months and into the future.

Firehouse Restaurant’s Tom Seaton said his business will be reopening it catering services, along with carry out and offer enhanced curbside service the first or second week in May.

Seaton said he will continue to wait to hear federal, state and local guidance before making any decisions.

Timber! restaurant owner Nathan Brand said he will remain closed during the first phase of reopening. His business has been closed for several weeks. Brand said he decided to close for the safety of his staff and community.

“Currently, we’re not planning on reopening on May 1st, even if that’s a possibility,” he said.

Brand says while he awaits further guidance from health officials, he has had conversations with staff about what a reopening would look like.

“We’ve contemplated doing all kinds of things and hybridizing our business model for a longer period of time,” he said. “Here on the front patio, we have very large private patio out back with a beautiful fence and lighting, so we kind of think those are the things we love most about the restaurant and what we think the clientele would love.”

Many of these restaurant owners said they plan on incorporating masks and gloves for staff members as part of their reopening strategy.

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