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Let’s eat: Restaurants reopening safely

By Ora Nelson

Restaurants in Atmore have made changes to reopen safely since Gov. Kay Ivey issued the safer-at-home order on May 8.

“We’re excited to finally get back to work,” said Beth McElhaney, owner of Gather Restaurant.

David’s Catfish House Manager Kathrine James said the local restaurant changed its utensil and plate policy.

“We’re serving everything [food and drinks] in styrofoam so it can be thrown away after a single-use,” James said. “We don’t want it [the containers] getting back to the kitchen.”

Gather is usually open for both lunch and dinner, but McElhaney said the restaurant will be open for dinner only on Tuesdays through Fridays, and on Saturdays.

“Right now, it’s not worth it to open up more and still be [working] at half capacity,” she said.

James said another change is that Davids has new hours.

“We have changed our hours a little bit,” said James. “But it’ll still be normal hours on the weekends.”

Others, like Acapulco’s and 30 Below Ice Cream have moved tables outside to make customers more comfortable.

“We set them [tables outside] up at first for customers getting to-go orders,” said Monica Lisenby, manager of Acapulco’s Mexican Restaurant.

Many restaurants had transitioned to delivery or carryout options to keep their businesses open at least partially.

“We went ahead a few days before everyone was told to close indoor dining to transition to take-out orders,” said Lisenby. “We had to go to to-go [orders]—we don’t have a drive-thru. We have made the best of it [the situation].”

James said Davids closed for about five days at the beginning of the safer-at-home order to reasses its drive-thru option, “because so many were asking…us to reopen in some way.”

Craven said the restaurant never shut down, and just switch to to-go and delivery orders.

“We added food to the menu and it [adding food options] worked out well for us,” she said. “Having food on the menu is what kept us going and not having to close down.”

All businesses are strongly encouraged to follow the six feet distance between customers and to practice social distancing, according to the order.

“We’re doing limited seating and following the six feet rule. We’re washing our hands but we’ve always done that,” said McElhaney.

“All kitchen staff is wearing both gloves and masks and servers are wearing masks,” said James. “Every table is six feet apart and we require there to be no more than six people at a table.”

Lisenby said customers will be spaced out between tables, and the eatery won’t allow more than eight people at a table.

Businesses have voiced their appreciation for the Atmore community many times.

“Without them, we would have shut down,” said Craven.

James said she’s appreciative of the community support.
“They’re what’s kept us going and kept our doors open,” said Lisenby. “Without them, we would’ve had to shut down. We love Atmore.”