Restaurants can reopen, but many need prep time and aren't ready for business

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Restaurant owners, especially ones who didn't receive money through the Paycheck Protection Program, say they need more time to hit the restart button and start serving meals again. Several eateries are remaining closed even as the state enters Phase 2 Friday afternoon.

"It's going to work out, but it's definitely going to be a race," said Kevin Jennings, who owns Coquette and Vivace in North Hills.

The problem at some restaurants is that refrigerators need to be restocked. Shelves are empty after a two-month hiatus. Dairy, vegetables, meat and seafood all must be reordered.

It could cost some small-business owners $10,000 or more for new inventory, and that even if they can get the items.

The wholesale industry was brought to a standstill.

"The produce isn't at the produce company. The produce is in the field in the California," Jennings said. "There's a certain amount of the whole chain is just broken, it's stopped. You don't keep butchering animals when you're not selling the meat. So now when we open 10,000 restaurants in North Carolina and other states as well at the same time, they just don't have the product."

At Coquette, the kitchen still needs to be cleaned and there's an enormous amount of prep work. Stocks, sauces, dressings and desserts need to be made.

"They got to get all this stuff out of here," Jennings said, walking around his kitchen and wiping away dust.

Chef Scott Crawford is also holding off on reopening his establishments. He is offering take-out at Jolie and Crawford and Son until staffers can be trained on new safety guidelines.

"We just received these parameters yesterday, so tomorrow we certainly are not ready to just throw the doors open. There's a lot that we need to learn still," Crawford said.

Vivace is one spot that is reopening Friday. The menu will be scaled back, and there's a large patio where folks can dine al fresco while social distancing.

Coquette is hoping to welcome back customers the first week of June.

Jennings, like many other small-business owners, is hoping to pull through.

"I'm a huge fan of not going bankrupt so that's one of my goals in life. We definitely want to get open," he said.

The takeaway -- Friday at 5 p.m. some restaurants will reopen, and others will not.

If you're interested in offering support to an establishment, call ahead and see if they're taking reservations.
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