Restaurants in SWVA seeing a decline in customers after new state mandates

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PENNINGTON GAP, Va. (WJHL) – In addition to Governor Ralph Northam’s decision to close both public and private schools through the rest of the academic year, the Governor also ordered all dine-in restaurants to close, forcing local establishments to resort to delivery or carry-out options in order to stay open.

The impact of the decision to close dining rooms is already impacting a number of local establishments, one of which is ‘Countryboy Cafe’ in Pennington Gap, Virginia.

Just 24 hours after the Governor’s order, businesses have altered their operations even more than they have in the past few weeks in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Tanya Gibson, the owner of Countryboy Cafe, said she made adjustments following the Governor’s first order and limited seating in her dining room. Following that change, she said she did see a decline in business.

On Tuesday, she made even more changes and now operates as carry-out only, a change she says is negatively impacting business.

“We normally seat about 36 people so you expect that coming in every day and when you don’t have that, that’s your income, that’s your life, and when you don’t have that it definitely hurts,” said Gibson.

While she understands the seriousness of COVID-19, she said her main focus right now is taking care of her staff during this difficult time. By staying open and offering carry-out, they hope customers will continue to support them.

“As a business owner, you have bills to pay and you have other people that you have to look out for like your employees to make sure they’re getting paid and they’re taking care of their families as well, so not only is hurting you it’s like a trickle downhill, it hurts other people,” said Gibson.

For the most part, residents have been heeding the Governor’s warning and staying home, limiting travel to only necessary trips. However, residents are still doing their part to try and support local businesses during this time.

“They’re not going to be making money and be able to pay for their housing and stuff like that if they don’t come to work. So they have no choice, they’re stuck in between,” said Pennington Gap Resident, Katlyn Noe.

Others who understand the struggle are also trying to support locally. Kaitlin Clark works at a nearby fast-food chain and said she still has to work during this time.

She told WJHL TV she feels safe at work and that she feels her job is taking the necessary precautions to keep both staff and patrons healthy.

However, even working in a popular restaurant chain, she said she has noticed a decrease in customers in recent weeks due to COVID-19 and is feeling the impact.

“Not enough people come in for the employees to make their money and keep up with their kids and families and everybody’s really struggling out here,” said Clark.

While this is the new reality, local restaurant owners like Gibson, say they’re going to do everything they can to keep their businesses running through this tough time.

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