Hampton Roads businesses prepare for more customers as state eases COVID-19 restrictions


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Businesses across Hampton Roads are making adjustments and preparing for more customers as the state eases the mask mandate and continues to slowly roll back other COVID-19 restrictions.

Starting Saturday, sports and entertainment venues have expanded capacity and alcohol can be served past midnight after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a slight return to normalcy for businesses across the commonwealth.

“Two weeks from today, May the 28th, we will lift all of Virginia’s mitigation restrictions on capacity and distancing in businesses and public spaces,” he said in a recorded statement Friday.

Christy Marron, the owner of Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub in Downtown Norfolk, says they’re preparing for a big rush of customers starting Memorial Day weekend, and have already seen more customers in recent weeks.

“We saw really the changes and the public wanting to come out, feeling more comfortable,” she said. “They’re starting to get vaccinated. They were finally comfortable with their masks.”

For The Taphouse in Ghent, the owners say the community has been very supportive of the safety protocols they’ve had in place during the pandemic.

With that in mind, they’re not making any big changes with capacity or masks until May 28th.

 “We’re kind of sticking with what we’ve been doing,” said co-owner Parker Harrington. “It’s been working for us and we don’t want to change and rock the boat too much.”

The biggest challenge for businesses now is finding a way to make everyone feel safe and comfortable.

“Not everyone is ready to go full loosie-goosey, and not everybody still wants to be locked down,” said co-owner Adelaide Rooney. “So there’s such a combination of how people feel safe in public right now.”

Another big hurdle for many businesses is hiring enough staff to fill open positions they have before the commonwealth is fully reopened at the end of May.

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