Wrightsville Beach restaurants, motel talk Memorial Day business


WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — As Memorial Day weekend draws to a close, how did local restaurants do now that some restrictions have been lifted during Phase 2 of North Carolina’s reopening?

The consensus in Wrightsville Beach seems to be pretty good considering the circumstances. Many businesses say they may not have profited as well as a typical holiday weekend, but most seemed pleased with the turnout.

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“It was very busy here on the beach, people all over the place, cars all over the place,” said South Beach Grill owner Elaine Andrews. “But I did see that people were keeping their space.”

Last week in Wrightsville Beach, the strand was opened for all activities, parking lots were opened and all restrictions on short term rentals were lifted. Hotels and motels, such as the Silver Gull, were neared or even reached capacity over the weekend.

“We’re at 90 percent, 70 percent, still nowhere near a normal Memorial Day Weekend for us, but it was a lot better,” said Silver Gull employee Trent Wheeler. “I mean as soon as they opened up the beach we went from 24 percent to 90.”

On Friday, Governor Roy Cooper allowed restaurants to reopen dining rooms up to 50% capacity. South Beach Grill owner Elaine Andrews says it was a slow start, but business picked up.

“It wasn’t as busy, we didn’t have as long of a wait as we usually do,” Andrews said. “We fill this place up quite a bit during the holiday weekends.”

Andrews said most customers wanted to sit outdoors at first.

“Once that filled up they were willing to sit inside,” she said. “We have taken tables out of the inside and outside the restaurant so there’s plenty of spacing between everybody.”

Matthew Smith, owner of Kohl’s Frozen Custard, says he got about 65%-70% of the business he’d normally see on Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s a little bit slower, but still more than I expected,” Smith said. “Which is both a good thing and concerning thing with the current situation, with the virus.”

After relying on takeout and delivery for the last two months, and now being reduced to 50% dine-in capacity, the restaurants WWAY visited don’t plan to pass those losses onto the customer.

“If we want to stay in business and make some more money, certainly you want to raise the prices to make up for the losses, but we can’t do that to our customers,” Andrews said.”

All of the businesses WWAY visited were following the recommended safety precautions, such as wearing masks and implementing additional cleaning measures.

“I’ve got all the proper signing from the CDC up, I’ve got social distancing measures put on the floor,” Smith said of his custard shop.

Hotels and motels are also having to make adjustments to their normal procedures.

“Housekeeping won’t even enter rooms now, so what they’re doing is basically taking towels, and the customers will put them in bags and leave them outside their door,” Wheeler said of the Silver Gull.

The second phase of Governor Roy Cooper’s plan to reopen the state is set to continue through at least June 26. After that, new guidelines for restaurants and other businesses will be implemented.