Reopening Tennessee: Restaurants, retailers allowed to open at full capacity; some choose to stay at 50%

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Restaurants and retail stores in 89 of 95 counties were able to reopen at 100% capacity Friday as the state starts lifting restrictions to reopen the economy.

According to the updated guidelines from the Tennessee Economic Recovery Group, those industries must still practice social distancing if they choose to operate at 100% capacity.

Blount County falls under the state’s orders.

Although Sullivan’s in downtown Maryville was allowed to operate at 100% capacity Friday, the general manager chose not to.

The restaurant actually decided to wait to reopen to 50% until just this week, Amy Anderson, the general manager said.

“We’ve been doing take-out and delivery. We started with that and switched into the 50 percent capacity dining. We’re still going to be doing that through the weekend. Again, we just want to ease into it. We don’t want to be the first restaurant to just bring everyone in. We want to wait and just kind of see what happens with it all,” Anderson said.

She said one reason why they weren’t opening at 100% is because of the social distancing guidelines.

Sullivan’s can accommodate about 200 guests on the first floor, and about another 100 on the top floor.

Before the pandemic, Anderson said that the bar area on a Friday night was always packed.

“Being that we’re having to do every other table, you can’t really do a full capacity, just, if you’re still trying to follow the social distancing guidelines,” Anderson said.

Anderson said they are following as many guidelines as possible to keep both employees and guests safe.

Guests aren’t allowed to sit in the waiting area, hand sanitizer stations were placed all around the restaurant, bar stools were taken away from the bar and employees wear masks and gloves.

Anderson said their fine dining experience is a little different in order to follow social distancing guidelines.

Servers won’t be able to leave a pitcher of water at the table and refill guests glasses with it when they walk by. Instead, servers will replace the guest’s empty glass.

Customers are also probably not used to eating fine dining cuisine with plastic silverware.

“We’re, you know, (using) plastic silverware, unless you get a steak. We have silverware for you. It’s freshly sanitized and rolled for you,” Anderson said.

She said that throughout all the changes due to the pandemic, following the numerous and ever-changing guidelines and figuring out staff schedules were the hardest aspects to deal with.

Despite being a little late to the game when it comes to reopening the dining room, Anderson said she received positive feedback from the customers.

“We had a lot of guests really happy with us kind of taking our time and slowly reopening. They’re proud of us for kind of just waiting. Cause they know that we’re protecting our staff and them,” Anderson said.

She said that they might open more tables next week, but that depends on how other restaurants fare with a larger capacity.

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