Sunday, July 14, 2024

In photos: Cape Fear region restaurants reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend

A waitress at Olde Salty in Carolina Beach takes an order on the first evening of dine-in service in two months. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — After 66 days, North Carolina restaurants were permitted to reopen their doors to dine-in customers.

Because Governor Roy Cooper’s new order limits capacity to 50%, restaurants spaced out chairs and tables to maintain the physical distance required to slow the spread of Covid-19.

VIEW THE FULL PHOTO STORY: Restaurants reopen after two months closed

Some businesses with small interiors opted not to reopen their dining areas, choosing to continue take-out services. For those businesses, it didn’t make sense to open doors when 50% of fire capacity means so few people inside.

With hotels and motels also permitted to open at varying capacities, depending on the jurisdiction, visitors once again flooded beach towns.

In downtown Wilmington, the sidewalks were once again filled with friends and families milling around as musicians played outside bars and in restaurants. Couples sipped wine and ate their dinners on wrought-iron balconies overlooking the Cape Fear River.

Kristen Gruodis was eating ice cream with her two sons on a stone slab off Water Street. She and her husband had just reopened their restaurant, Little Dipper Fondue, several hours earlier — the first time it’s been open since mid-March.

“People are out; it’s awesome,” Gruodis said. “It’s been a ghost town for however many months. But we’ve got the phones ringing off the hook.”

Although she felt relief, she said it came with a heavy sense of responsibility toward keeping her employees and customers safe.

“It’s like opening up a brand new business. It’s a big responsibility to make sure you’re doing it right, and taking everyone’s health into your hands,” Gruodis said. “And retraining our employees — not the way we did before, but the new way.”

View the full photo story below:

Restaurants reopen after two months closed

Send tips and comments to Mark Darrough at or Johanna Ferebee Still at

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