Restaurants in rural Tennessee counties anticipate reopening dining rooms at full capacity

Restaurants in rural Tennessee counties anticipate reopening dining rooms at full capacity

TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - Restaurant owners outside Shelby County are looking forward to May 22, when Tennessee lifts restrictions on restaurants for most rural counties in the state.

While restaurant owners say they’re looking forward to things hopefully getting back to normal eventually, they don’t expect how they operate to change overnight.

"I can't wait to be honest,” said John Burns, co-owner of Outlaw BBQ.

Restaurant owners in Atoka have May 22 circled on their calendar -- the date that will allow them to fully reopen their dining rooms.

"That was good news, very good news,” said Tim McKnatt, co-owner of Outlaw BBQ.

At Outlaw BBQ, they plan to have waiters and waitresses continue wearing masks and gloves while practicing social distancing as much as possible, even when the restrictions lift.

"We're going to continue to do that until we feel that it's safe to get back to normal no matter how much time it's going to take. That's our goal,” said McKnatt.

"I'll be glad because we can fill the restaurant again,” said Mike Godwin, owner of Paradise Grill.

Over at Paradise Grill, they say they’ve been maxing out their 50 percent capacity at times with customers getting more comfortable eating out.

"It's very important for our business,” said Godwin.

Owner Mike Godwin said they plan to keep extra sanitation stations available when they are allowed to open at full capacity. He thinks the state has been responsible and has waited long enough to lift restrictions for restaurants in rural counties.

"Whatever you’re comfortable with. See in my opinion, it’s all about your choice. You choose to come in, you can choose to carry out or you can choose to stay home,” said Godwin.

Both restaurants credit the community of Atoka for keeping their businesses not only surviving, but thriving during the pandemic, and they hope to get back to something close to normal as soon as possible.

"If it comes back to normal, if there is going to be a normal, I would welcome it tomorrow,” said Godwin.

"Customers are first so we’re going to always make sure they’re safe. We’re going to provide for them first,” said Burns.

Restaurant owners say if people aren’t comfortable coming back and dining inside the restaurant, they’re going to continue offering their take out and, in some cases, their delivery service to make sure that those people feel comfortable and can still support their business.

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