For Alexandria restaurants, reopening is not a return to the pre-pandemic dining experience.
Across the city, restaurants that were closed or had only been open for take-out and delivery are adjusting to new standards to keep customers and staff healthy during Phase 1 of reopening.
“We’re doing everything that was recommended,” said Katie, an employee at Virtue Feed & Grain (106 S. Union Street). “All our tables are spaced six feet apart. Out front, we’re directing the traffic that wants to be seated or pick up an order.”
Katie said that’s included guidelines for employees and customers remaining six feet apart and new standards of disinfecting bathrooms between use.
Similar standards are being applied across the city. Matt Rofougaran, a managing partner for Hops N Shine (3410 Mount Vernon Avenue), said new changes at the bar include a new plexiglass sneeze guard. All payment includes a touchless option and all of the products being used are paper and disposable.
For many restaurants, new loosened restrictions on patio dining have opened up more socially distanced options. Rofougaran said Hops N Shine opened for patio dining with a strict “Patio Ten Commandments” in place for customers and staff.
Alexandria Restaurant Partners reopened three locations for patio dining: Mia’s Italian Kitchen, Vola’s Dockside Grill, and Palette 22 in Shirlington. The restaurants offered walk-in dining with no reservations.
At Virtue Feed and Grain, Katie said the patio was the popular attraction of the weekend.
“We hit the ground running,” Katie said. “Our first busy-ness was Friday evening. We had some lunch guests, but [for dinner] we had a waitlist and our first rush for patio seating.”
Frozen margaritas and beer flights were the more popular item, Katie said.
“People were eager to be outside and enjoy interacting with us,” she added.
Other locations are open, but are still waiting for outdoor dining permits. Abdel, an employee at Del Ray Cafe, said the small French restaurant at 205 E. Howell Avenue reopened on Friday but the restaurant is still waiting on a permit to use the parking lot for outdoor dining.
“It’s not crazy busy, but we have three tables,” Abdel said. “Sometimes we seat all three, sometimes just one.”
Abdel said that all of their customers have been wearing masks and distancing appropriately, while the restaurant has been using paper menus. All-in-all, Abdel said he’s happy to be back.
“It’s been great,” Abdel said. “I’ve been waiting for it.”
Staff photo by James Cullum