Raleigh restaurant installs $3,000 air filtration system ahead of reopening

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- When the clock struck 5 p.m. at Mulino in Raleigh Friday night, the wine suddenly started flowing again. After a month and half of stay-at-home, the city started dining out again.

"I'm very happy that we're open again," said Samad Hachby, owner of Mulino Kitchen and Bar. "We had to overcome the whole COVID-19 closing experience and we're excited."

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As Hachby welcomed back diners Friday, he showed ABC11 what they've done to make sure everyone feels protected from the coronavirus.

He says he spent over $3,000 on an air filtration system that boasts NASA-designed technology that destroys pollutants in the air.

"It's a system that can clear viruses, bacteria, allergens," he said.

All the staff is wearing masks. Outdoor guests can still sit poolside. But no tables are less than six feet apart. And for indoor diners, Hachby didn't want plexiglass or plastic partitions to spoil the ambiance. They're using large box planters to keep guests distanced but still keep the romance.

"It's natural separation that does not spook people. We want them to feel comfortable," Hachby said.

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In Cary Friday night, Jeff Basham and his 83-year old father Al were waiting in the car outside Outback Steakhouse. They were first in line for the restaurant's reopening.

"We're excited. We're cautiously optimistic," Basham said.

Al has suffered three strokes since last September. He's been recuperating at home and was eager for Outback.

"Steak," Al said when asked what he wanted to order. "And, absolutely a glass of wine."

Jeff said, "My father's been in quarantine since March 15 and except to go to the doctor, he's been at home. He needs to be out. He needs to be social."

Back in downtown Raleigh, it was all quiet at one of the oldest restaurants in the city.

Debbie Holt, the owner of Clyde Cooper's BBQ, the 82-year old institution was at home on Friday night. She was forced to lay off her staff early on in the shutdown and ramping back up has not been easy. First, navigating meat supply issues caused by COVID-19 and now facing her own doubts that her clientele may not ready to eat out again.

"I just don't think that it's profitable right now to open up," Holt said. "I've talked to enough people to feel like they just don't feel safe enough to go out and eat. I would say two, three weeks max -- we will back. But I just don't think today was the day."

Clyde Cooper's was far from the only restaurant not ready to reopen quite yet. Some are sticking with curbside pickup for now. And then there's the slowly growing list of restaurants so crushed by the shutdown -- they won't reopen at all.
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