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Capacity issues delay some Mid-Ohio Valley restaurant openings

Vehicles line up to pick up lunch from the Root Beer Shack on Staunton Avenue in Parkersburg Friday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — West Virginia allowed restaurants to resume dine-in service a month ago, but some have chosen — or been forced — to wait longer.

To curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, restaurants are only allowed to operate at 50 percent of their normal capacity.

“Basically, our restaurant is so small … I would only be able to put 11 people in my dining room,” said Amy Cochran, co-owner of The Root Beer Shack on Staunton Avenue in Parkersburg.

With 6 feet of distance required between family groups, even that would be a challenge, she said. And only two of the restaurant’s four outdoor tables could be used.

“It’s hard for small business that have smaller properties to adhere to all that,” Cochran said.

Root Beer Shack manager Misty Farnsworth hands an order to Parkersburg resident Larry Hamilton Friday at the Staunton Avenue restaurant. Because of space restrictions, the Root Beer Shack has yet to resume indoor dining services. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

For now, the eatery is serving customers via drive-through and pickup only. And thanks to a loyal, understanding group of customers, Cochran said, the Root Beer Shack is surviving.

“When all of this COVID kind of started, I was afraid we were going to lose it,” she said. “We’ve got the best customers, I think, in Parkersburg. … That’s what’s going to keep us here tomorrow.”

Crystal Cafe owner J.R. Carpenter reopened on June 1 and decided several days later to shut it down again.

“I could have kept the restaurant closed for almost two months for what I paid to keep it open for a week,” he said.

Carpenter said he saw loyal customers during that week but the problem there weren’t any additional potential customers. With many people still working from home and functions canceled, “downtown’s a ghost town,” he said.

Parkersburg resident John Nicholson, left, waits for his order at Der Dog Haus on Seventh Street in Parkersburg Wednesday as server McKayla Giffen speaks with a customer by phone and server-bartender Ethan Spencer cleans a menu. Der Dog Haus reopened for carryout on June 1 and resumed indoor dining a week later. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

But Carpenter emphasized the closure is only temporary, “until conditions improve.”

The Yellow Jacket in Williamstown would have opened in March in other years. Because of the virus, the restaurant known for its oversized “freak shakes” didn’t start up until about four weeks ago. So far, they’re only offering outdoor dining and carryout because a couple of employees are at higher risk due to health issues, Sherri Conny said.

“We’ve been so completely blessed with people coming and eating and doing a lot of curbside delivery,” she said.

The demand has been higher than Conny expected, so she plans to open up indoor dining at 50 percent capacity after July Fourth.

“If the (virus) numbers go back up, then we’ll just change it back to outside dining,” she said.

Der Dog Haus in Parkersburg waited until June 1 to reopen and only offered carryout the first week, manager Aaron Weaver said.

“We kind of wanted to see how everything went with the other stores,” he said.

Traffic that first week convinced them to go ahead and resume indoor dining after making the necessary changes to comply with health guidelines, Weaver said.

“It seems like every customer coming through the door is just so happy we’re back,” he said. “Most of the faithful are already back. We’re coming out of the red and into the black.”

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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