BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) – In Bristol, a state line defines how you can dine.
Restaurants in Bristol, Tennessee, have been able to offer dine-in seating for a couple weeks now. But across State Street in Bristol, Virginia, restaurants are still restricted to serving take-out only.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the ease of some restaurant restrictions on Wednesday as part of a Phase One reopening plan. Starting May 15th, restaurants can reopen outdoor seating at 50% capacity.
Joe Deel, owner of the Burger Bar, is eager to have dine-in seating again.
“Everybody’s ready to open. We want to be safe, we don’t want anybody to get sick. But it’s time for us to start business again, or there’s not going to be any businesses to start,” said Deel.
Next door to the Burger Bar, Quaker Steak & Lube also plans to reopen. To create more room for outside dining this weekend, Bristol, Virginia City Council voted to shut down Piedmont Avenue from State Street to Goode Street. The section of Piedmont Avenue will be closed starting at 4 p.m. on Friday and be blocked off through Saturday.
“We made the offer and talked to all the downtown restaurants. But these were the two that kind of took us up on it, said this would be a good idea,” said Neal Osborne, mayor of Bristol, Virginia.
Osborne said police cars and barriers will block off the area.
“So no traffic can come through and everybody will be completely safe. This whole area will be outdoor seating,” he said.
If you come this weekend, Quaker Steak & Lube general manager Brad Smith says you can expect tents set up and live entertainment.
“You can’t have a dance floor or anything like that. But we are going to have some entertainment for guests. And hopefully people can have some sense of normalcy,” said Smith.
The ‘normalcy’ will come with precautions.
“Everything’s going to be single-use, tables will be six feet apart, all of our employees will be wearing masks, which is part of Executive Order 61,” said Smith.
These Virginia restaurants still can’t allow customers to sit back inside like their Tennessee neighbors. But it’s a start. Deel said he wishes the governor would come visit and see Bristol up close.
“I still put an invite out to Governor Northam to come down here to the Burger Bar,” said Deel. “I’d love to treat him to lunch.”