Some restaurant owners hesitant to open outdoor seating areas

Updated: Apr. 27, 2020 at 10:53 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The three significant changes to the stay-at-home mandate are going to affect businesses already in operation. For some restaurant owners, it means pulling out their outdoor tables and chairs to allow customers to stay and eat.

"I'm excited about any new little thing that we can do to change to get back to normal," said restaurant owner, Chef Scot Craig.

Craig says the move will not change much. Employees will still simply hand over to-go orders. Per the mandate, servers are not permitted to wait on customers sitting outside.

They'll also all be required to wear masks, just like any employee that has contact with the public.

The owner of Dat Dog, Constantine Georges, tells FOX 8 he’s eager to open his large, outdoor seating area at the Magazine location. However, Georges has yet to make a decision about the Frenchmen restaurant’s balcony.

The Howlin' Wolf's owner, Howie Kaplan, says he doesn't have a big set-up outside. His place is mostly a music venue but they do sell food. Kaplan plans to capitalize on the opportunity to let patrons stay and eat, sharing Craig's sentiment-- it's a step towards the new normal.

"It's baby steps but it's steps in the right direction. I agree with the governor and the mayor said this should go another couple of weeks. I'm all about that," said Craig. "

When the city shut down, Craig says he had to stow the picnic tables at Francesca’s to keep people from sticking around.

Since then, Craig says he's managed to maintain pretty steady business there. He also owns Katie's in Mid-city, which he says isn't doing as well. Though it's not in any danger of closing, the chef hopes outdoor seating will give a little boost to both businesses.

"People are going to want to come out. They're going to want to enjoy just being in the vicinity of the restaurant and not having to take the food home. It'll almost be like a picnic like, 'hey man let's sit outside and eat our food.' I think it's gonna be cool," explained Craig.

Craig says he misses interacting with customers the most and he's not alone.

St. James Cheese Company Owner Richard Sutton says selling cheese has always been interactive. Now, they simply lower it over their balcony to customers.

Sutton says his business has seen its share of challenges but tells FOX 8 he’s comfortable following the lead of state and local officials. While he says the opportunity to offer outdoor seating is nice, Sutton doesn’t believe he has enough space to warrant it.

Sutton said, "Our best move is to continue to do what we can to social distance and keep my employees safe and keep our customers safe and try to serve some people some good food make it take it home with them. If they’re worried about getting sick, that doesn’t work.”

The changes the governor announced also mean stores in shopping malls can open for curbside delivery but the malls themselves must remain closed.

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