Sevierville restaurants delay dine-in options


SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As part of Gov. Bill Lee’s pledge to “reopen the state responsibly,” some restaurants across the state are now able to start serving to dine in-customers again including those in Sevier County. But, several restaurants like Nino’s Pizzeria are opting to delay the reopening of dining rooms until the federally recommended date.

“We have been following the CDC guidelines since the beginning of this and following some of the local decisions,” Nino’s Pizzeria owner Jerry Maltese said. “We decided if we follow the federal part of this it would keep us in that much better shape.”

While Nino’s Pizzeria has been available for takeout throughout the pandemic, other restaurants like Graze Burgers have not, the burger joint opted to close its doors while navigating the pandemic. With the state permitting dine-in options again beginning Monday, April 27, Graze Burgers has opted to use that date as a benchmark to slowly reopening their business beginning with carry-out and transitioning to dine-in in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to see what some of the other restaurants do,” Graze Burgers manager Bruce Swab explained. “If they have some success or if they have some problems with it. And also the case reports too if it looks like things are spiking we’ll probably get a little tighter.”

In addition to operating at half-capacity, restaurants that are opening dining rooms are required to adhere to additional guidelines as mandated by the state government.

The state requires restaurants to have additional hand sanitation stations and also mandates the use of gloves and maks for all employees.

Acquiring some of these items has proved to be a tough task due to the high demand caused by the pandemic.

“Some of the essentials are harder to find,” Swab said. “We have to go through several different vendors just between gloves, masks, and to-go boxes.”

With dine-in eating the first sense of normalcy many people are getting to experience since mid-March, Maltese expects a high volume of customers come the May 1 opening.

To prevent large crowds of people from gathering, Maltese has decided Nino’s will operate as reservation only as they begin the transition back to normalcy.

“People are going to be like woo we’re free so they’re going to swarm everything,” Maltese said. “What we want to do is we want to control them before they get to the front door so that kind of keeps things going smoothly.”

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