By Nathan Ham
For some retail businesses that had been considered non-essential during Governor Roy Cooper’s Stay-At-Home Order, Saturday will mark their first official day to reopen if they choose to under Phase 1 of North Carolina’s reopening plan.
Boutiques, antique stores, book stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, and the like are able to reopen Saturday, May 9 at 50 percent capacity with continued social distancing measures in place and increased cleaning and disinfecting by store owners.
Other businesses such as barbershops, salons, tattoo shops, and theaters will still remain closed until Phase 2 of reopening, which will likely happen at the end of May or beginning of June. Hotels can choose to reopen at 50 percent capacity this weekend, however, counties in the High Country have been approaching that issue differently. Ashe County and Avery County have decided to open hotels while Watauga County Commissioners unanimously approved a plan put forth by county manager Deron Geouque that will delay the opening of hotels until the start of Phase 2 and also keep the 14-day self-quarantine in place for visitors and summer homeowners.
“I think that we have to move forward, I feel like we need to get our businesses reopened and we need to get our hotels reopened. We are going to have to rely on our citizens, our visitors, and our business owners to observe social distancing, observe the capacities allowed in their businesses,” said Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers. “This virus is going to be here for a while and there is going to be a new norm, and that new norm is something we are going to adjust to.”
According to Gov. Cooper, Phase 2 of the reopening plan is expected to be implemented two to three weeks after Phase 1. This will allow for the limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, salons, and barbershops. It will also allow gatherings at churches and entertainment venues at reduced capacity and the openings of public playgrounds.
If all goes well with additional testing and contact tracing, Phase 3 will be implemented roughly four to six weeks after Phase 2. This will increase capacity at restaurants, churches, and entertainment venues.
“It’s a good step forward as long as we do abide by social distancing and the restrictions in place,” said Mayor Sellers.
The question that everyone will find out an answer for soon enough is how quickly the general public will embrace going out shopping at downtown stores for those non-essential items that folks ventured out for previously at grocery stores and pharmacies. Those that do head to the stores this weekend are still encouraged by Gov. Cooper and the CDC to wear masks to protect themselves and the people around them.
According to Boone Mall general manager C.K. Golden-Fields, the mall is planning on opening at 11 a.m. Saturday morning. The current plan is for mall hours to be 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon through 5 p.m. on Sunday.
“We have precautions that we are putting in place. All employees will be wearing masks and gloves while inside the premises. We will also have sanitation stations set up at all entrances, outside the bathrooms, and at center court by the mall directory,” Golden-Fields said. “We also have extended our cleaning procedures to disinfecting the handles multiple times a day and putting up posters highly encouraging customers to wear facemasks, gloves, and practice social distancing.”
Golden-Fields says he anticipates at least half of the stores will be open this first weekend. Tucker’s Cafe and Eleven80 Eatery as well as Mane Habit Salon, Mi Nail Salon, and Super Clips will not reopen until Phase 2 of the reopening process. “It seems like the trend is most everybody will be back this weekend.”