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South Carolina Restaurants Allowed to Open Dining Rooms, Bars

But will they?

Erin Perkins/Eater Carolinas
Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas, covering the food and restaurant scene across North and South Carolina.

In a move at the close of business on Friday, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced that S.C. restaurants could once again open dining rooms and bars on Monday, May 11. McMaster did not put any restrictions on the reopenings, but he did suggest that restaurant owners follow the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association guidelines, such as keeping groups of customers six feet apart, limiting tables to groups of eight, constant cleaning, and other precautions similar to the patio regulations.

Over the weekend, many reported seeing patrons not obeying the social distancing rules in outdoor spaces. Swank Desserts owner Danetra Richardson said she noticed a few patios have been completely full since the reopening. “A lot of people have been super relaxed, which scares me,” she says. Richardson also thinks it might be too soon to reopen her Summerville business. “[It] doesn’t make financial sense if we aren’t going to be as busy, if some [customers] still want to stay away. It’s definitely not fun having no idea what to expect, but returning to our old business model comes at a cost. We will continue to do curbside pick up and pre-orders for now.”

Others across the state echo Richardson’s hesitation to fully reopen. Chef Sarah Simmons (Small Sugar and Il Focolare Pizzeria) in Columbia says, “We’re not re-opening. And we haven’t opened our patio either. We are waiting until the numbers decrease and tests are more readily available. We will continue our community feeding and offering take-away. We haven’t laid off any of our staff so protecting them is our top priority.”

Many restaurants will continue with the takeout and delivery systems they pivoted to two months ago when dining rooms shut down. “Kwei Fei will be sticking with its current takeout model,” says chef/owner David Schuttenberg, “Later this week we feel we can safely open our patio, but to do so are pivoting to reservations for the few tables (which we have never done), in order to alleviate concerns around patrons overfilling the space. We feel it’s too early to even talk about indoors, but that too will eventually become an inevitability. My biggest concerns seem to be happening; opening too soon, and people returning in droves too quickly, potentially rendering all the stay at home orders and social distancing useless.”

As of May 9, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control stated that there are 7,653 reported COVID-19 cases, with an estimated 47,011 more cases across the state.

South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association Guidelines [PDF]
Charleston Restaurants Start to Reopen Outdoor Patios [ECAR]
Swank Desserts [Official]
Small Sugar [Official]
Il Focolare Pizzeria [Official]
Kwei Fei [Official]
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control [Official]