Downtown Wilmington restaurants prepare, make changes ahead Phase 2 of reopening

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — With Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement that North Carolina will enter Phase 2 of reopening Friday, restaurants in downtown Wilmington are gearing up for this weekend.

It’s been a hectic week for restaurants in anticipation of moving into Phase 2. Copper Penny has been moving things around and drawing up a game plan ahead of reopening for dine-in service.

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“We will be sitting every other table,” General Manager Andrew Devoid said. “Ideally, we’ll probably only sitting three to four tables at a time.”

Devoid says you’ll notice some pretty big and maybe even permanent changes inside the restaurant.

“We have gone ahead and taken out all of our high tops,” he said. “We have now built booths all along the left wall to create that natural barrier for people.”

Devoid says bar seating probably won’t be available at first. For customers, the dining experience is also going to look a little different.

“We’ve gone to single-use silverware,” Devoid said. “We are putting plexi-glass on our tabletops with all of our menus underneath so there won’t be any touching of the surfaces.”

During Phase 2, Copper Penny plans to continue its curbside service for takeout orders until they eventually move inside.

“We’ve removed some tables on the right when you walk in and created a takeout counter,” Devoid said.

They’ve designated a counter for takeout orders so people don’t have to walk through the entire restaurant.

In addition to the changes to dine-in service at restaurants, the talk has continued about closing parts of downtown streets for outdoor street dining. The Downtown Business Alliance put out a survey, asking people what they thought.

“We wanted to have a reality check,” DBA President Terry Espy said. “If we build it, would they come.”

Espy says they’re still in early discussions, but if all goes well, it could start to happen by as early as mid-June. She said they received almost 1,000 responses, around twice as many as they get with other surveys.

“Across the board, very, very, very positive and enthusiastic,” she said. “Many, many, I’d say 70% of the people taking the survey wrote in they would like to see this become permanent.”

Devoid says he thinks it’s a great idea.

“Hopefully all of downtown can work together and all the restaurants can reopen,” he said. “We’re excited to have some foot traffic back down here.”

Espy says the DBA is meeting with the city of Wilmington Thursday, and they plan to talk about logistics and plans for potential outdoor street dining not only downtown, but in other parts of the city. She says they’re hoping to be able to do it through the whole summer.