Restaurants anxiously wait to see if the next step in reopening will help business


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Restaurant owners are anxiously awaiting Tuesday’s briefing from the governor.  

In a hint offered last week, Gov. Ralph Northam called on Virginians to spend the weekend making sure they have a mask on-hand as the Memorial Day weekend comes to a close.

In a temperature check at a few popular spots in southern Virginia Beach, restaurant owners say — thanks to take-out, delivery, and the 10-day old parking lot alfresco scene — Mother’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, and the Friday before Memorial Day were great for business.

On Sunday at Jose Tequila’s and sister restaurant Senor Fox, the salsa was hot and spicy but mother nature put a chill on outdoor dining. At both restaurants, many outdoor tables were empty while waiters clad in masks and gloves adjusted tables and handed over several take-out orders.

The restaurants are part of a family-owned chain of eight restaurants and one under construction in Sandbridge. Manager Kevin Ledezma says business is down 50 percent since restrictions were issued in mid-March.

“Yesterday, for the first time, I was trying to pay out my waiters. We ran out of money to do so. We had to go to our personal savings accounts to pay them,” said Ledezma.

While surveying the empty interior of Senor Fox, Ledezma said he believes the governor will soon loosen restrictions on dining establishments.

“That’s what I think he might announce logically based on the way things are going,” he said.

The second-generation restauranteur is concerned eateries will run into social distancing difficulties.

“There’s a certain difficulty in tracking and making sure people can be safe,” said Ledezma. He is calling on the state to offer eateries more information on how to expand service without reducing safety.

Nearby, the alfresco scene at Lucky Oyster was also slow.

Pre-pandemic, the bar would be packed with customers enjoying wing, clams and local oysters while NASCAR and other sports roared in the background. Less than a dozen patrons dined in the parking lot but there was a steady stream of take-out customers.

Manager Kelly Marcondes is grateful for loyal customers. Indoor dining is closed but the menu is wide open.

“We are offering our full menu, which pretty much is not being done throughout the city,” said Marcondes. Marcondes believes some current dining restrictions will remain in place as the summer season approaches.

While restaurants examine the ledgers from the first holiday weekend of the season, there is concern about what will happen in the weeks leading to the July 4 holiday.

“It’s very difficult to say if we will survive; we are trying to survive,” said Ledezma.

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