Oak Ridge leaders, business owners detail reopening plans

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Monday marks the first day restaurants are allowed to reopen in 89 of the state’s 95 counties. Governor Bill Lee gave restaurants the green light to allow dine-in eating at half capacity.

Meanwhile, most retail stores are allowed to begin in-person shopping again on Wednesday.

The governor’s phased reopening applies to the counties Oak Ridge is in: Anderson and Roane counties. The city put out a set of guidelines specifically touching on restaurants and retailers.

“We wanted to provide a little extra clarity in interpreting the governor’s executive order,” said Oak Ridge’s City Manager, Mark Watson.
Oak Ridge restaurants were allowed to reopen Monday under some limitations, including operating at 50 percent normal capacity, with tables and chairs spaced six feet apart.

“We sanitize after every single meal, every single person,” said Tarl Kendall, co-owner of The Other One Diner and Deli.

Kendall decided not to open back up inside dining just yet, but chose to open the outdoor patio seating.

“It actually went exactly how we expected. There was no complaints. The distance between tables is around 10 feet, and if there wasn’t a table available, they went and sat in the grass,” he said.

“We’re not really concerned about the large number of people being in our store, but we’re going to start with a small amount of hours,” said Meghan Oneal, owner of Southern Bliss Boutique.

Retailers like Southern Bliss Boutique got the all clear to re-open at 50 percent occupancy starting on Wednesday. Leaders say employees and customers should wear face coverings inside the stores.

“All of our employees are going to be wearing masks, because obviously we want to keep employees safe, we also want to keep the shoppers that are in our store safe as well. We have lots of hand sanitizer, we actually have bottles by both registers,” Oneal said.

City leaders said during this time, and as businesses look to taking next steps, everyone has to be conscious.

“There still is a virus out there, there still is a threat. As we look at addressing that, we’re depending upon the businesses making the right choices, and we serve as an advisor and partner with them in ensuring the safety of those customers and their employees as they work in there,” Watson said.

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