Local restaurants adjusting to new state restrictions barring dining in

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LEXINGTON, N.C. — Taking it day by day. That’s what many people, especially local business owners, are having to do.

Wednesday marks the first full day that all dining rooms and bars in North Carolina are empty.

On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper closed restaurants and bars, with the exception of take-out and delivery, to help encourage social distancing and lower the spread of the coronavirus.

It’s already proving to be tough for local businesses, especially in Lexington – a hot spot for barbecue.

“When you get the food order in at 10 o’clock, and then at 11 o’clock they tell you you’re going to have to shut down, it gives you a little bit of mixed feelings,” Tim Fritts said.

Fritts owns the 360 Southern Grille on Talbert Road in Lexington.

He doesn’t know what the future will look like.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.

Fritts made the decision to close up shop Tuesday night to figure it all out.

The drive-thru and parking lot sat empty on Wednesday, as the team strategized their plans.

“We decided to get everything in the freezer and everything in storage. Then my plan was to assess today and see what everybody else was doing,” Fritts said.

For the first time, he doesn’t know what will happen.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business about 43 years now. I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “I hope in my lifetime I’ll never see anything like this again.”

Just a couple miles down the road, the owner of Smiley’s BBQ sits in an empty dining room.

“How am I going to make it?” Steven Yountz said. “[We’re] just trying to run off of curbside, telephone, you know, takeout, the best we can and letting people know.”

Yountz decided to keep business running as best he can, to stay afloat.

But already he’s seeing a significant drop off of business.

“This morning it was tremendous. It was probably 70-80 percent,” Yountz said.

He says the community is still being generous.

“[People] have been tipping well, the people that are coming. They’re supportive and they’ve been taking care of the girls,” Yountz said. “That’s a plus.”

He’s had to cut some of his staff members’ hours.

Right now, both business owners say all they can do is just wait and see.

“We just hope for the best,” Yountz said. “People care. When people are caring, they’re going to do what they can.”

They’re counting on their community to help them through it all.

“Have faith and spend time on your knees [praying],” Fritts said. “We’ll get through this. In the meantime, let’s figure out what to do.”

Fritts says they plan to re-open the drive-thru and pickup services for 360 Southern Grille at 11 a.m. Thursday and will stay open as long as they can.

He also says if they don’t go through the large food order they just received, they plan to donate it.

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