Katharine DeRosa, News Assistant
New COVID-19 restrictions implemented this week caused stress among restaurant owners who have adapted to on-the-fly changes throughout the summer and fall.
City Dogs, an American-style restaurant in Richmond, opened its first location in Shockoe Slip in 2008 and a second location closer to VCU’s campus in 2009. Owner Cliff Irvy said the new restrictions will have a negative effect on his business.
“I wasn’t happy,” Irvy said. “That was my reaction.”
Gov. Ralph Northam tightened restrictions on gatherings and mask wearing as COVID-19 cases in the United States spiked well past summer averages. Restrictions went into effect on Monday.
In a press release Friday, Northam announced heightened restrictions on in-person gatherings, increased mask requirements, alcohol curfews for bars and restaurants and increased enforcement of these policies.
“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are,” Northam said in the release.
The University of Virginia’s weekly COVID-19 report, released Friday, shows that cases in southwest Virginia are surging. Richmond and neighboring counties are experiencing “slow growth” in coronavirus cases.
The report shows states bordering Virginia, excluding the District of Columbia, with a double-digit increase in incidences over the last seven days — all seeing more than 20 cases per 100,000 residents. With lower case numbers, the report says Virginia “increasingly looks like an island.”
Northam’s executive order limited the number of people permitted at in-person, public or private gatherings from 250 to 25. Children over 5 years old are now required to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Previously, the order only included children 10 and over.
Alcoholic beverages can’t be sold at dine-in establishments after 10 p.m., according to the order. Restaurants are not permitted to sell food for dine-in between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. Takeout and delivery of both alcohol and food may continue after these times.
Irvy said the company relies on alcohol sales for 40% of revenue. City Dogs has been running “skeleton payrolls,” which Irvy said include fewer servers and bartenders.
“We depend on it,” Irvy said of alcohol sales. “You can’t pay your team if you’re not getting it on the front end.”
Gyms are permitted to have 75% occupancy for the entire gym, but gym exercise classes cannot have more than 25 people or 75% capacity, whichever is fewer.
Public beaches may not have gatherings of more than 25 people. Private amusement park bookings may not exceed 25 people, and total occupancy cannot exceed 250 people. Spectators at sporting events must be limited to 30% of the recommended capacity or 25 people. Races and marathons can have up to 250 participants granted that they are split into groups of 25 or less.
Public and private gatherings are limited to 25 people, however, this does not include gatherings for work and school.
Under previous guidelines, businesses had to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing of at least 6 feet. Now, establishments that fail to do so can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor by the Virginia Department of Health.
According to the release, Virginia has a daily average of 1,500 cases; 300 cases higher than its peak in May. As of Tuesday, Virginia has had 206,762 total cases and a 7-day testing positivity rate of 7.4%, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
VCU reported 35 active cases among students and employees as of Tuesday. The university dashboard has reported a total of 454 cases since mid-August. The percent positivity rate of symptomatic testing on campus is 25.2% and the percent positivity rate for asymptomatic prevalence testing is 0.17%.