Restaurant association wants Gov. Cooper to allow dine-in again. Are customers comfortable with that?

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- On the edge of Person Street's burgeoning restaurant row, The Station has been dark since March 30 - shutting down the same day the statewide stay-at-home order took hold. In a letter sent to Governor Roy Cooper on Friday, the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) says only 35 percent of the state's restaurants can afford a shutdown of two months or more. They say their request to reopen is about survival.

NCRLA is urging the governor to reopen restaurants for traditional dining ahead of Cooper's phased reopening plan. "Reopening restaurants in mid-May for patio and dine-in service could be the difference between survival and permanent closure for many restaurants," the group wrote in the letter.

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On Blount Street, Joseph Jeffers, co-owner of Stanbury, is managing to keep his neighborhood farm-to-table restaurant open with drastically-reduced staff and offering take-out-only orders three nights a week.

Jeffers is doubtful the public's COVID-comfort level is at a point where he could justify hiring back workers for dine-in customers.

"We'd probably just stick to take-out until we could open at maybe 60 percent capacity," Jeffers said. "It's about what people are comfortable with. We want to be at a point where we're comfortable having people inside the restaurant too; where we feel safe for the guests and all our employees feel safe."

NCRLA insists eateries are set to adopt strict new COVID-prevention health safety rules -- with socially-distanced tables and reduced capacities.

Even so, many wary diners waiting on curbside orders on Person Street were urging a slower approach.

"My boyfriend and I do love to go out. But right now, I think being in quarantine for 40 plus days we're just a little hesitant (to dine-in)," said Corinne McCormick.

Ryan Grover added, "Safety is number 1 and it's not worth sitting inside (a restaurant) when I can just take (the food) home, right."

Governor Cooper's phased plan allows for a limited reopening of restaurants and bars in phase 2 -- which the plan says would come two to three weeks after phase 1 begins. Depending on the trend lines of positive COVID-19 cases, phase 1 could begin as early as May 8.

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