'It just feels like there's hope': Restaurants closed by pandemic ready to reopen as restrictions lift this Friday

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- When Governor Roy Cooper announced he was lifting some restrictions, it propelled at least one restauranteur to reinvest in his small businesses.

Signs went up that he's taking reservations once again and his spots are reopening.

"It just feels like there's hope. It's on been on the horizon, the horizon just looks a lot closer right now," said Sean Degnan who owns both SO-CA in Raleigh and Ko'An in Cary.

There's a lot of work ahead. To start, Degnan needs staff.

So, immediately, he turned to social media to put out a call to fill the positions. The bars need to be restocked and the spaces spruced up.

Fresh meat, poultry and produce ordered for the kitchens, but Degnan is thrilled to get back to business.

With the governor's announcement, he feels, it's a sign that everyone is doing their part.

"That little bit of congratulations for doing a good job and everybody staying apart, and wearing masks," said Degnan.

Starting Friday, restaurants can operate at 50% capacity inside. Doors can stay open past 10 p.m. and spirits can be served until 11 p.m.
The changes come as the winter month's brutal weather begins to let up and to the spring's warmer weather which is better for business.

During the winter, Degnan says the appetite for eating indoors and outside was low.

"The plates are cold, you're cold and so we just felt it was time to hibernate for a while," he said.

The other spot he's reopening is SO-CA. The Latin fusion spot holds the distinction of being one of, if not, the first small business in the Triangle to temporarily close due to the pandemic after Wake County's first COVID-19 patient dined at the restaurant.

"I think it'll be telling how much we learned in a years' time, how wrong we were at first and how much probably safer we can be going forward," he said.

Both restaurants are set to welcome back customers in early spring.
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