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Parkersburg, Marietta restaurants serving up a new normal

Columbus residents Jordan Marshall, left, and Argeri Lagos were in Parkersburg for business Friday and had lunch at Chams Lebanese Cuisine on Market Street. The restaurant reopened June 1 after closing March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Chams Lebanese Cuisine on Market Street joined other local restaurants last week in reopening for modified indoor dining.

“We have 25 tables instead of 55,” said Ben Ekelman, son of the restaurant’s co-owner and namesake, Chams Ekelman. “We have a glass pane in front of the register. Our waitresses are wearing masks.”

When pandemic restrictions first went into effect, Chams offered carry out orders for about a week, Ekelman said, but the owners ultimately decided to close for two weeks on March 23. They made that indefinite on April 2, due to “health concerns for us and our community,” he said.

West Virginia allowed indoor dining to resume on May 21 and outdoor dining before that, but Ekelman said Chams monitored the progress here and in other states, along with CDC guidelines, before deciding when and how to reopen in the way that was best for them.

“We felt like we needed to take a safer route,” he said.

Receiving a Payroll Protection Plan loan and having an understanding landlord in attorney Ginny Conley helped them weather the storm, Ekelman said.

“The community’s been great,” he said. “And they’ve been really excited for us to open.”

In Marietta, Tampico Mexican Restaurant has welcomed customers back to dine indoors and out, but delivery remains a part of their operation.

“We’ve seen an increase in sales since we opened again, but others have wanted to wait to come in and we respect that and are keeping our delivery with a $25 minimum,” general manager Sergio Budar said.

Budar said before the pandemic, delivery was reserved for catering orders for 10 or more people, but to maintain business, the model changed throughout the end of winter and early spring this year.

“At first we were doing Door Dash (an app with independently-contracted drivers) but they take a lot out of the sale and that’s hard for a small business so we pulled our people that were on unemployment, our old servers, and asked if they wanted to deliver,” said Budar. “They’ve been a big help to us and it helps them, too. We’re still adapting and trying to follow the new distancing and that means it takes a little longer but customers so far have understood.”

Larry Sloter, owner of The Busy Bee, which is scheduled to reopen June 16, said he hopes to continue delivery of milk, eggs and bake kits, but that the service would first be dependent on how quickly foot traffic returns to the restaurant.

“Our challenge is paying a delivery person to just hang out,” explained Sloter. “I just hope when we see that light (at the end of the tunnel) that the customers return.”

Janelle Patterson contributed to this article.

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

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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