Spring is in the air and with this season always comes change, which is something the Queen City has had to get used to during this past year. Due to the impact of COVID-19, Charlotte’s restaurant industry has unexpectedly evolved, which may have some Charlotteans wondering where to start once it’s safe to return to the restaurant scene.
Gone are the days when we knew exactly what to wear to that one restaurant — because we’ve all lived in loungewear for a year and skinny jeans went out of style while we were quarantining. We can’t remember what time we had to arrive at our favorite spot to get a table or which restaurants required a reservation. What is a dress code, does anyone remember?
In a post-lockdown world, we will all have to reimagine what a night out looks like. We can help.
Where should I go?
While some of the city’s favorite restaurants closed their doors for good last year, others pivoted — offering contactless interactions — to remain open. More than a few new restaurants also opened.
Unfortunately, we’ve had to say goodbye to some of our favorites like Bill Spoon’s BBQ, La Belle Helene (which is now being reopened by the 5Church owners) and Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream.
While it may be difficult to let go of the memories — and the delicious food — from some of your favorites, you can look forward to some new hot spots that are sure to be a treat like Marguax’s Wine, Pizza & Market, Supperland and Boss of Vegan.
Will I need reservations? With patios even more popular than a typical spring and restaurant dining rooms serving patrons at 50 percent capacity, it’s a good idea to check with your restaurant of choice regarding reservation requirements before you go — even if, during pre-pandemic times, you could just walk in.
Health and safety first
As health and safety restrictions continue to lift in North Carolina, safety should still be a priority as you start to plan to enjoy the beautiful weather and the diverse food scene the city has to offer. The best way to put it is that all residents have to adhere to the guidelines in place to ensure safety, Lulu’s Maryland Style Chicken and Seafood co-owner Joseph “Jay” Davis told CharlotteFive on Monday afternoon.
“As long as we’re still operating within that thought process of trying to keep everybody safe, and as long as our customer base realizes that, I think we would be good,” Davis said. “That’s the main piece we have to realize. There are still guidelines. There are still restrictions. There are things we all have to look out for, and that applies to all of us.”
Davis’ latest venture, Hideaway Bar & Lounge, is currently in its soft opening phase with plans to fully open later this month. Though Davis is one of many owners to open new restaurants during the pandemic, he’s also a part of the number that has adjusted with the restrictions.
“For us, Lulu’s has kind of been flowing pretty well,” he said. “I’m interested in seeing how the bar is going to do because of course it’s limited capacity. So, I can’t really have the flow of customers or influx of customers I’d really like, but I guess for me, I’m kind of optimistic.”
Lulu’s first location on Tuckaseegee Road will remain takeout only with the option to call to order ahead. The new location on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood will be dine-in when it opens in early 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the latest guidelines Monday for fully vaccinated individuals. The information comes right in time for those who may be concerned with how to proceed with making plans to enjoy the outdoors during the warmer months.
If you’re planning to enjoy that long-awaited meal and quality time with friends and family, you may want to reconsider. According to the CDC, individuals who are fully vaccinated are those who are two weeks past their second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines or two weeks past a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Fully vaccinated individuals can do the following:
Visit other vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing.
Visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without masks or physical distancing, if the unvaccinated people are at low risk for severe disease.
Skip quarantine and testing if exposed to someone who has COVID-19if asymptomatic, but monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
In Charlotte, ‘COVID is still alive and well’
Although we are moving into a better direction right now, we are not out of the woods, said Dr. Genevieve Brauning, lead physician at Novant Health SouthPark Family Physicians.
“With vaccines coming out and people being ready to come out of hibernation, we are inclined to want to go back into our old lives,” Brauning said. “We need to remember transmission rates are still elevated in Mecklenburg County, and COVID is still alive and well — and there’s people still getting sick.”
Though many Charlotte residents may be eager to get back to normal interactions, the safest and fastest way to do that would be getting vaccinated, she said.
“We have been doing this and we are fatigued, but I do think we can do this a little bit more so we can safely interact with others,” Brauning said.
“We can gather outdoors or create more distance and airflow and have outdoor dining and events. We can take advantage of the climate and the weather we’re being given to keep it as safe as possible. We can do this a little bit more to keep our friends and family safe, and just wait for the indoor gatherings until everyone is vaccinated.”