Bristol small businesses cautious of COVID-19, eager to accommodate fans during race week


BRISTOL (WJHL) – With NASCAR’s playoff race coming to Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, small businesses along State Street are gearing up for a spike in customers.

Small businesses told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that they are using their experience from the last Bristol race to prepare for this race week, as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

Moriah Miller of the Old Lighthouse Diner said their business is much more comfortable this race week after no COVID-19 cluster cases were reported following July’s Bristol Motor Speedway racing.

“I think we do feel a little bit more comfortable, especially not just us, but other people in the community knowing that it didn’t bring anything negative to Bristol, but rather it brought business to not just us, but other businesses as well, so I know that we’re excited about having the race fans in town once again,” she said.

She added that she expects larger crowds this week as Saturday’s race is the first time a NASCAR Chase race will be hosted by BMS.

“With this race being part of the chase, versus just a regular season race, I think people are excited about being able to have that as part of Bristol’s race, since this is the first time it will be a part of the Chase,” Miller said.

Race fans already filling the dining room of the Old Lighthouse Diner seemed to mostly be from out of town.

“We’ve had I think a few from Florida, some from Pennsylvania, and then of course, some that are close in Virginia and Kentucky and stuff, but we haven’t seen any from the Northwest at all yet, but we’ll see, I guess, come later on this week,” Miller added.

Italiano Cafe, also on State Street, is more cautious with the cutoff race in town, and has been taking extra precautions, on top of having guests dine outside.

“I don’t think it’s the time for any type of sport, I think this needs to die down and then possibly reopen these things again, whether it’s football, baseball, NASCAR, I think this virus needs to be completely cleared out of here before they start doing this stuff again,” Italiano Cafe Owner Regina Nasr told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.

Nasr added that every touched surface is disinfected after each customer because if any one of her staff contracts COVID-19, she said it would be “devastating” to their small business.

MeMe’s Diner, down the road, said with the economy taking a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the customers who are in town for the races are a blessing.

“It’s okay, it’s not like it has been the last couple of summers, but you know, we’re day-to-day, as long as we’re paying those bills, that’s all that matters,” Jessica Miller of MeMe’s Diner said. “We are trying our best to accommodate everybody.”

To these small, family-owned businesses along State Street, community is key.

“Everybody in Bristol is doing their part, we’re all trying to work together, especially us small businesses,” Miller said.

Though spectators will not be permitted in the grandstands of BMS for Thursday’s truck race, State Street businesses are expecting customers to increase in numbers as early as Thursday in anticipation of the races on Friday and Saturday nights.

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