'We need the support:' Raleigh restaurant owners, workers struggling as dining rooms shut down to prevent spread of COVID-19

North Carolina restaurants and bars are closed to sit-down service under an Executive Order Governor Roy Cooper issued in response to COVID-19 Tuesday. Restaurants and bars are allowed to continue take-out and delivery orders.

The Hibernian Pub on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh is usually busy on St. Patrick's Day. It was quiet Tuesday, offering only curbside pickup.

Niall Hanley, owner of Hibernian Hospitality, which operates The Hibernian Pub, Morgan Street Food Hall, The Station and Raleigh Beer Garden, said they had to furlough most hourly employees and all tipped employees.

"These are awful decisions," he said. "It's like a funeral. People are crying. People are sad. But this is strange, strange times. What I need the community to understand on behalf all restaurants is we need the support. Not just me, not just employees. Every restaurant needs the support. If you can buy from curbside, go and do it. Some places are not set up on Postmates. Call them. Every little bit is going to help these guys. Otherwise in three months you're going to walk out and there's nothing."

Hanley decided to switch to carry out service Monday before the governor's order.

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"For me, it was kind of an easy decision. We all have friends and family that are either in compromised immune states or are elderly. It's not about 98-99 percent of the population but we have to do the right thing. The young people out there need to kind of get that too."

Hanley is waiving rent for Morgan Street Food Hall tenants and feeding employees every day as long as he can.

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Clyde Cooper's Barbecue owner said they're sanitizing even more than normal and using packaged plastic utensils. They'll still offer curbside pickups and deliveries for large orders.

"You've got to do everything you can to accommodate trying to serve your food, take care of a customer, to keep yourself afloat for the duration of this," said owner Debbie Holt. "There may come a time when we just have to close."

Holt said she's had to cut back on employees hours but is trying to rotate staff so everybody gets enough hours.

"I have employees that I want to take care of," she said.

Casey Styers owns Halcyon off Glenwood in Raleigh.

She said that since they don't serve food, they'll have to close and it's unclear when they'll be able to reopen.

"We're concerned about our employees," Styers said. "You know a lot of them that's what they rely on to pay the rent and eat of off and that kind of stuff, their tips and their paychecks from us."

Some diners are making it a point to still support local businesses.

Deborah Brown called in her carry out order at Morgan Street Food Hall.

"I think it's just kind of getting used to not having that place to go in and sit down but picking things up and going back to your work or apartment or home to eat," Brown said. "It's just going to be the new normal."

Hibernian Hospitality is partnering with US Foods to put together packages for local hospitality workers affected by closures will be able to pick up at Morgan Street Food Hall. Details are still being worked out.
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