By March 29, 2020 Read More →

W.Va. Restaurateurs ask themselves: To be or not to be (open)

By Maria Young, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dairy Winkle owner Kerry “Paco” Ellison recently installed a door at the store’s Campbells Creek drive-thru window to keep customers — annoyed at the restrictions of social distancing — from getting out of their cars and sticking their heads through the opening.

“When you pull up in your car, you’re actually 6 feet from the girl you’re talking to. And there’s a little basket roller that she rolls things back and forth with” to exchange food and money, he said.

A few miles away at the Penn Station East Coast Subs in Kanawha City, as well as nine other franchise locations, employees answer a series of health questions and check their temperatures before they start each shift.

“You now wash your hands 20 to 30 times a day, plus use hand sanitizer, plus we’re wearing gloves, we’re doing everything they are recommending,” and more, said co-owner Roger Kirkland, referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

And yet.

It is hard to imagine a decision more fraught with peril than the one facing the restaurant industry right now. The choice: to stay open and serve the public in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic but accept some risk of spreading the deadly virus, or shut down and jeopardize their financial futures and the jobs of their staffs.

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